Diaper Bank: A New Understanding of Waste Management

Rebecca Larkin-Martinez, Program Manager

Rebecca Larkin-Martinez, Program Manager

As our group of volunteers toured the sparsely decorated but highly functional warehouse at the Diaper Bank of North Carolina, we saw an astounding amount of diapers. Boxes were literally towering over us, packed to the ceiling. And yet, according to Executive Director Michelle Old, they are still in need. During our orientation, she shared some startling facts:

  • One in 3 infants in NC has to go without a clean diaper because their parents are forced to choose between food and diapers.
  • The majority of families who need diaper assistance work 1-3 jobs and still struggle between paychecks. This includes our military and teachers.
  • WIC and other government assistance does not cover diapers or other essential products that are required to maintain dignity, hygiene and health.
  • The organization uses diapers as a gateway to introduce or engage families in other services, such as the food bank, immunizations and other health care.
  • We assumed the smaller sizes would be the most needed, but the most requested diaper sizes are 4 and 5. Babies grow quickly and are in the larger sizes longer.
  • In its first year, the Diaper Bank of North Carolina had a truckload of 16,000 diapers stolen. The story became international news, raising awareness and generosity, and resulted in 130,000 diaper donations within a week.

Our mission that day was to take down the mountain of boxed size 3 diapers and create smaller packs of 25 for distribution to other agencies. First, we created a conga line to set up each station with diapers. 🎶 Take the box down and put it on the ground. 🎶

Next, we split into small groups and were assigned roles and stations. We had counters, who set to work making stacks of 25; the bundlers, who used plastic wrap to create the new packs; and distributors, who were constantly on the move picking up the finished product and delivering new boxes of diapers to pack.

We worked like a well-oiled machine for hours. Occasionally, one of us would change hats and help break down boxes. Just as we began to grow diaper weary, the mountain was gone! HUZZAH!

As a team, we unpacked and repacked 30,000 diapers in three hours, which works out to 800 diapers per person per hour. Evidently, we know how to move some “Sh&t” – or at least diapers.

One person’s dream, to ensure that families would not have to choose between food and keeping their children clothed and healthy, is helping thousands across North Carolina.

By 2017, they distribute 3 million diapers per year and have expanded to programs such as “A Truckload of Hope” and “Helping Moms Helps Babies.”

Michelle continues to spread her passion. And we volunteers are essential to being able to provide relief to those who would rather not ask for it. Please consider volunteering, so they can continue to cover those bottoms!