Tri-Citians get it -- diapers are a basic human need too.
How else to explain the success of the Tri-City Diaper Bank, a new organization with a new idea that has caught on quickly, even in a time when money is tight everywhere?
The nonprofit, which provides social service agencies with diapers for their clients, started as a small offshoot of the Adventist Community Food Bank in December. It has since grown steadily and now comprises two local distribution centers.
The diaper bank now has its own office and storage space, a modular building behind the Riverview Seventh-day Church in Pasco donated by Pacific Mobile, said Adra Johnson, the diaper bank's program director.
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And it has set up a second distribution center at the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The group serves several key agencies in the Tri-Cities, including the Benton-Franklin Health Department, the Children's Developmental Center, Catholic Family & Child Service, Benton-Franklin Community Action Committee and Safe Harbor Crisis Nursery.
At the health department, for example, these diapers help the very poorest families, said Carla Prock, the agency's nursing supervisor.
"When you have to choose between buying diapers and buying food, this frees up some of those limited resources," she said. "This helps them get through the month where tough choices have to be made."
One common factor among all of these agencies is their careful screening of clients to ensure that only those in real need receive their services.
"That's very important to us," Johnson said. "We can only provide for those with the greatest need."
The nonprofit has given out nearly 20,000 diapers through these agencies, she said.
Overwhelming community support has made that possible.
After seeing a Herald story about the diaper bank's launch, the Pasco chapter of Moms Offering Moms Support collected about 2,000 diapers for the group, Johnson said.
And last week, the diaper bank organized a campaign it called "Stuff the Bus."
A red bus provided by Ben Franklin Transit was parked in front of the Pasco and Richland Walmart stores for a whole day each, encouraging shoppers to drop off a bag of diapers on their way out.
Many did. The group collected more than 18,000 diapers in those two days, Johnson said. She still hasn't gotten used to such overwhelming support.
"We get kind of teary eyed when people bring us packs of diapers," she said. "It's a real sacrifice for some of them."
Diaper banks are a new concept in the world of charitable giving. "The idea of diapers as a basic human need has lagged behind the demand," Johnson said. "But diapers are the most basic clothing a child can have."
The need for diapers in the community far outstrips what the diaper bank can provide, but the group hopes to grow further, Johnson said.
So far, all positions within the nonprofit are filled by volunteers. As the operation grows, some paid staff will have to be hired to keep fundraising and distribution organized, Johnson said.
And the group hopes to expand its reach into the schools, to reach younger siblings of homeless students. It is looking to partner with the school districts in this effort.
The faith-based organization has achieved a lot in just a few months through collaboration with others.
"We believe we can make significant change when we work together," Johnson said.
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