WAUKEGAN - DAILY HERALD - A Lake County nonprofit that distributes tens of thousands of diapers a month to families in need has seen skyrocketing demand and plummeting supplies in recent weeks.
Prior to nonessential business closings and shelter-in-place orders issued last month in response to the spread of COVID-19, Twice As Nice Mother & Child had reached a routine distribution number of about 70,000 diapers monthly, said Ann Marie Mathis, founder and executive director of the Waukegan-based organization.
With diapers and wipes among items that a coronavirus-wary nation has hoarded, Mathis now eyes her storage spaces warily. The three-month inventory she normally maintains is disappearing. And community diaper drives have been canceled.
"We remain open," she said. "We are considered essential. But we have seen an unprecedented influx in the number of requests for help, with more than 120 new requests for help in the last two weeks alone.
"We buy 90 percent of the diapers we distribute," Mathis said. "Due to hoarding and heightened demand, suppliers are delaying and, in some instances, canceling shipments. Wipes, for example, are just not available through my suppliers right now."
Twice as Nice Mother & Child assists more than 1,000 children and 500 families each month, Mathis said.
"That was pre-COVID-19," she said. "I'm expecting that number will double for at least the next three months."
Mathis' former core group of 14 volunteers is down to about six, including herself, as some older volunteers are avoiding leaving their homes.
Before last month, student and other adult groups regularly attended diaper-wrapping sessions to prepare bundles for distribution. But with social distancing rules in place, that's now down to the singular six.
Each sits at his or her own table, with gloves, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes at the ready, to do the work that used to be done by a dozen or more helpers at a time.
Mathis, who has seven children of her own, said she is determined to keep going. Diaper distributions remain available to partnering agencies via curbside pickup at TANMC's Waukegan address.
And the organization's mobile pantry program continues to serve families as scheduled. Dates and locations for all of the mobile pantries are listed at twiceasnicemc.org.
Registration to receive mobile pantry services is online only for the time being. Participating recipients are asked to remain in their cars and follow volunteers' drive-through directions.
Mathis said safety net programs such as food stamps or WIC do not cover diapers, so need is always great. But with unemployment climbing and many store shelves bare, more people than ever are turning to Twice As Nice and other diaper banks.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting families who lack access to diapers and other basic necessities," she said. "The panic buying, the hoarding, the job losses, community shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders are all forcing more people to turn to diaper banks like ours.
"All of these things also are depleting supplies," she said. "We're trying to do the best we can to meet the increased demand and help those in need during this crisis."
Those in a position to help are encouraged to visit twiceasnicemc.org, where cash donations are accepted via PayPal. People also can shop TANMC's wish list on Amazon and have items shipped to the organization's Oak Grove Avenue address.
Cash donations are always greatly appreciated, Mathis said, as TANMC is able to purchase diapers at a discount through its National Diaper Bank Network membership.