What a year it's been for the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank!
When we began 2015 with a few thousand diapers in our garage and monthly distributions to two partners that were sorted, counted, and wrapped right at our kitchen table, we could not possibly have imagined the growth our little organization would experience over the course of the year. In fact, we spent most of 2015 just sustaining our efforts, maybe even feeling a little overwhelmed and discouraged at times, questioning how we were going to manage getting a new organization off the ground while also holding down full time jobs and raising a growing family. As it has been since the organization's birth in 2014, little nudges and signs kept coming at just the right time to remind us that we needed to continue, that we needed to pursue growth, that we needed to have faith in what could come.
In June, our little Diaper Bank started down a path that would change everything. We purchased 30,000 diapers from another Diaper Bank in Missouri -- in fact, YOU may have contributed to the fundraiser that made our purchase possible! We thought our delivery might be interesting for folks to hear about, so we went ahead and called the press. After a wonderful front page story in the Post Dispatch, the Diaper Bank started getting some attention--scratch that, we started getting A LOT of attention.
Phone calls and emails began to pour in--donations, volunteers, organizations wanting to partner, and so many requests from St. Louis families who were struggling to get the diapers they needed to keep their children clean and dry.
The outpouring of support from our community was incredible, and we were offered some amazing partnerships with wonderful St. Louis people and organizations. YouthBridge Community Foundation stepped up as our fiscal sponsor - giving us a space under their non-profit umbrella until we receive our own! Schnucks Markets enthusiastically offered their support during our first annual observance of National Diaper Need Awareness Week - collecting diapers and dollars for the Diaper Bank in their metro stores. Two Men and a Truck, St. Louis donated a truck and some awesome helpers for our first annual Fill the Truck! Diaper Drive. The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry offered the Diaper Bank a place to live--a real, honest to goodness warehouse. And perhaps the most important partnership of all, we heard from volunteers galore! Someone to help us build a website, someone to help us with our PR work, someone to help us file for our 501C3 status, dozens of people hosting diaper drives in their neighborhoods, offices, churches, and schools, and dozens more who came out to help us make Diaper Need Awareness Week a roaring success. We had volunteers picking up diapers, volunteers stacking, sorting, counting, and wrapping diapers in the warehouse, volunteers standing in the cold at our Fill the Truck! drive, and behind it all we had a dedicated group of 7 fearless folks on our newly minted Board of Directors, diligently steering our organization in the right direction.
Even with all that success, we know we didn't do as well as we could have. There were emails that didn't get returned, questions that didn't get answered, thank you's that didn't get mentioned, follow up that just fell through the cracks. I guess that's what it's like when you're putting something new together, things don't always work as well as you'd hoped. We are sorry for all the things we could have done better this year, but we hope that you'll stick with us as we keep working to do better.
And now here we are, ready to begin a new year--with a warehouse now overflowing with tens of thousands of diapers, with new partner applications about to be opened (yes, we want to give away MORE diapers!), with a growing, talented and passionate Board of Directors, with lots of volunteers just ready and raring to help, and with so much hope and enthusiasm for what we can accomplish.
I heard another diaper bank founder mention this year that she believes diaper banks operate from two main motivating emotions: heartache and hope. Our hearts ache from the knowledge that the Diaper Bank exists because families in St. Louis are suffering--moms and dads are struggling to provide this most basic need for their little ones. We know that diaper need causes distress in families that surpasses even the stress of food insecurity. We know that when diapers are in short supply families suffer the heartache of children in discomfort, children in pain. We know that the material shortage of poverty is a debilitating and destructive force in the lives of families who just want to provide what their children need to be happy and healthy.
But we have HOPE, because a diaper from the Diaper Bank is so much more than JUST A DIAPER. It's a chance to snuggle with your happy baby and read a story, it's confidence for a mother to know she can provide for her child, it's the satisfaction of a basic need that allows a parent some mental space to think about the emotional and cognitive development of her child, it's what a parent needs to send his son to child care so that he can go back to work or back to school, it's peace of mind, it's a sign of support. A diaper from the Diaper Bank IS hope.
With love and gratitude for your support this year and in HOPE for all we can accomplish together in the next, Jessica Adams, Founder and Director, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank.