WAUKEGAN – LAKE COUNTY JOURNAL - Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, diaper banks were in high demand.
Today, diaper need has become a public health crisis say those involved with the National Diaper Network, which works with diaper banks throughout the country.
Providing diapers on the go to struggling families, volunteers with Waukegan-based Twice as Nice mother & Child have seen this crisis firsthand.
“Because of this pandemic, we’re seeing the number of families seeking support from programs like ours just go through the roof,” said Ann Marie Mathis, the nonprofit organization’s founder and executive director. “We’re just doing everything we can to fulfill our mission of making sure the families have what they need.”
Already supporting more than 1,000 families every month, Twice as Nice has worked to fulfill a demand that has doubled since the pandemic, and it’s not slowing down, Mathis said. Like many similar organizations throughout the nation, Twice as Nice has turned to mobile diaper pantries to get diapers to families in need.
Relying on those mobile pantries to pick up supplies for her 18-month-old son, Marie of Gurnee said the organization has filled part of the financial gap left when her husband lost his job as a result of the pandemic.
“It’s been a tremendous help,” said Marie, who preferred not to use her full name. “What we would have used for diapers we’re using just to put food on the table.”
To help the many families in similar situations, Mathis has increased the number of mobile diaper pantry distributions, with her team of volunteers working harder than ever to keep up with demand.
For a list of distribution dates and locations, including those in Waukegan, Highwood and Gurnee, visit www.twiceasnicemc.org.
Half of Mathis’ 14-member team of volunteers had to temporarily bow out due to health risks during the pandemic.
“If anyone is looking to volunteer, we always need help,” Mathis said. “We’ve been basically functioning with half of our normal team. Thankfully, the people who remain, myself included, have stepped up and are working more than they have.”
The organization also has faced challenges due to supply shortages, delayed shipments and canceled orders, Mathis said.
“We’re all facing the same challenge right now, which is we can’t get what we were normally getting. People were having a hard time finding diapers on store shelves, let alone buying them,” she said.
It’s a similar situation at diaper banks throughout the nation, said Troy Moore, chief of external affairs for the National Diaper Bank Network.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 3 families struggled with diaper need, making it a public health issue, he said.
“We honestly believe diaper need is now a public health crisis,” he said, pointing to rising unemployment rates.
“That’s increasing demand for food, for diapers, for the basic necessities people need just to survive,” he said. “We’re seeing that explosive growth across the country. I’d be hard-pressed to see any program not doing twice as much as they did before on a monthly basis.”
Programs previously relying on partnerships with other social service agencies are finding creative ways to distribute more diapers, Moore said. They’re partnering with food drives and organizing mobile diaper drives, similar to those hosted by Twice as Nice, he said.
Before COVID-19, the network recommended the distribution of 50 diapers a month per child to provide a supplemental need “at the end of the month when dollars are stretched,” he said.
“That model has all been blown up,” he said, with families not being able to afford any diapers.
Diaper banks rely on donations to meet those demands, and Twice as Nice is no exception. Both diapers and financial donations are sought. For information on how to donate money, items or time, visit www.twiceasnicemc.org.