No baby's wet behindWhen Kristen Grode discovered a gap in the system, she decided to fill it with diapers. It all happened because her baby girl was growing like a weed.
By: By Jo Colvin, Life Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
When Kristen Grode discovered a gap in the system, she decided to fill it with diapers.
It all happened because her baby girl was growing like a weed.
Shortly after her second daughter, Jada, now 9 months, was born, Grode was left with a couple packs of opened diapers that the baby had outgrown. She had no use for them and wanted to give them to someone in need. She called a couple shelters and food pantries and was astonished.
“They were desperate for them,” said Grode, daughter of Chuck and Barb Wiener of Alexandria and a 1997 graduate of Jefferson High School in Alexandria.
This need prompted Grode, now a resident of Blaine, to do some research online, in which she discovered that there is no public supplement for diapers for people who are struggling to make ends meet. Wanting to help the organizations she had called, she contacted friends who had leftover diapers and took up a collection.
When she discussed the issue with her husband, Jason, the couple knew that they had to do more.
“We had been looking for a way to volunteer,” Grode said. “This was something that we could do on a much larger scale.”
They decided to start their own diaper bank, which they named The Diaper Drive, Minnesota’s first and only diaper bank. Through the organization, they would collect disposable diapers and give them to organizations, which in turn would disperse them to struggling parents.
The Grodes designed a website (www.thediaperdrive.org), applied for 501(c)(3) non-profit status and in May officially launched their new venture. Grode contacted a chain of grocery stores in the Twin Cities, which agreed to offer space for diaper drop boxes at 21 locations.
“It exploded from there,” Grode said.
During a tour of a local shelter, Grode met a reporter from WCCO-TV who thought the idea warranted a story. That was followed by a report on KARE-11, Twin Cities Live and a front-page story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
So far, two fundraising/diaper collecting events have been held in the Twin Cities, including a Father’s Day “diaper day,” in which they solicited donations and passed out information at grocery stores. A diaper drive at the Mall of America is set for November.
Grode already has a list of 50 organizations that want to receive diapers.
“We can only help a small portion,” she said, stressing that The Diaper Drive does not distribute directly to individuals, but to entities such as shelters, food pantries, churches, etc.
One of Grode’s goals is to expand The Diaper Drive to other cities and advocate for change.
“The big thing that we are pursuing is that community involvement is what will determine how big this gets,” she said. “Once a community picks it up and makes it their own, it will sustain itself. It will make a difference in people’s lives.”
Where better to start?
Born and raised in Alexandria, having the first off-shoot of her charity be in Douglas County was an obvious choice. So was asking her parents, Chuck and Barb Wiener, to help.
“We were passing out brochures on Father’s Day and she asked when we were going to start [a Diaper Drive branch] in Douglas County,” Barb Wiener said.
Feeling like it was meant to be, she dove in and immediately got to work in Alexandria soliciting volunteers and a committee. Through a chance meeting, Tammy Sheldon, owner of Roundabout Sports, Kids and Fun in Alexandria, enthusiastically joined the cause.
“We were just supposed to get into this,” Wiener said. “The path is paved.”
The local chapter held its first meeting August 19 and will meet weekly until it is running smoothly. Like her daughter, Wiener was amazed at the agencies “screaming” for diapers.
When she contacted local agencies, she was told that, “Most people don’t understand how poor some people are.” She discovered the need was just as desperate here as in the Twin Cities area.
The local chapter of The Diaper Drive plans to hold its first event, a Rock-a-thon for Babies, in October (see related sidebar). All money and diapers collected in Douglas County will be given to local agencies.
Wiener and her committee plan to have monthly events thereafter to keep the organization funded and the awareness alive, what she considers the biggest challenges.
And her biggest dream?
“That we can stock shelves so that anyone in financial need would have access to assistance with diapers,” Wiener concluded. “We just want to get diapers to babies.”
• Safety net programs such as food stamps and Women Infant Children (WIC) do not cover the cost of diapers.
• An adequate supply of diapers can cost more than $100 a month.
• The majority of licensed daycare centers do not accept cloth diapers and require caregivers to provide disposable diapers.
• In poor and low-income families, a baby can spend a day or longer in one diaper, leading to potential health and abuse risks.
What: Rock-a-thon for Babies to raise funds and collect diapers for The Diaper Drive; many other activities will also take place.
When: Sunday, October 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Viking Plaza in Alexandria.
Bins will be available to drop off diapers; cash donations also accepted. Any groups that would like to participate in the Rock-a-thon can e-mail email@example.com.
• Drop boxes for The Diaper Drive are located at Elden’s Food Fair and Roundabout Sports, Kids and Fun, both in Alexandria.
• For information on The Diaper Drive, visit the website www.thediaperdrive.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. It can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.