A few months ago, the Hmong American Women’s Association received a box of diapers for their community closet. The group, also known as HAWA, divided the layers into packs of five. By the end of the week, they were gone.
“We have started to notice that more parents and women who have children or are caring for children are coming forward,” said Leana Yang, director of outreach and education. “And their high demand was, ‘Are you all going to have more diapers? Are you all going to have more wipes? ”
Yang knew that the group had to find a lasting response to the needs of the community. Through conversations, Yang discovered the Milwaukee Diaper Mission, a nonprofit diaper bank dedicated to providing low-income people with diapers, menstrual products, wipes and more.
After meeting Meagan Johnson, co-founder and executive director of Milwaukee Diaper Mission, HAWA became an official distribution partner in July.
Johnson had no intention of starting a nonprofit organization. Initially, she sought to educate low-income families about the benefits of cloth diapers.
When she struggled to find a local diaper bank, she contacted the National Diaper Bank Network, who encouraged her to start her own.
Johnson, alongside his cousin Jessica Syburg, co-founded the Milwaukee Diaper Mission in September 2020. By October, the group had a space, 2612 S. Greeley St., Suite 222, and in November, they were distributing it to organizations. local.
Syburg was first vice president for several months and now works as a volunteer.
By August, the group had distributed more than 140,000 diapers and more than 80,000 menstrual products.
While Milwaukee Diaper Mission is part of the National Diaper Bank Network, other groups such as United Way, the Care Net Pregnancy Center in Milwaukee and the African American Breastfeeding Network offer diaper products to individuals.
IMPACT 2-1-1 received 212 calls for diaper-related inquiries from January 2020 to June 2020. This year, it received 107 diaper-related calls during the same period. The organization referred people to agencies such as House of Peace, Alpha Women’s Center, Women’s Support Center in Milwaukee, and more.
Dalvery Blackwell, co-founder of the African American Breastfeeding Network, explained that part of the organization’s funding is unlimited and can be used to purchase items such as diapers, nursing supplies, and more.
When a pregnant woman shows up for a class, she is automatically enrolled in the program, Blackwell said. The network provides customers with a doula, breast pumps, diapers and more for free.
“As long as they are breastfeeding, they need our services,” she said.
The group makes daily deliveries to customers and plans to set up a collection system.
The Milwaukee Diaper Mission offers its partners both disposable and reusable diaper options.
“We do disposable and reusable,” Johnson said. “The dignity of choice is really important to our organization. We want to make sure that families have the choice of what products they use on their body, on their baby’s body, and therefore we offer them as much as possible.
Johnson became interested in cloth diapers when she was pregnant with her first child.
“I’ve always been environmentally conscious and it just felt natural to focus on learning about cloth diapers and trying them out with my baby,” she said. “It’s also a great cost saving. This was an added bonus that I hadn’t even thought of as someone who had never bought diapers before, I had no idea what their monthly cost was.
According to the National Diaper Bank Network, in 2018, the average monthly cost of diapers for a child was around $ 80. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federal assistance program, can help families cover the cost of diapers, but this money is also used to cover bills, rent, clothing, transportation, and more.
While the initial cost may vary, the average start-up cost for cloth diapers is around $ 150, not including the cost of water and detergent, Johnson said.
The group relies on in-kind and cash donations and on volunteers. The group received $ 20,000 in funding from the CARES Act, which they used for the inventory. She noted that the group still needs size six diapers, wipes and menstrual pads.
“Diaper banks are powered by diapers, dollars and doers,” Johnson said. “Those three things were all hard to come by during the pandemic. As a small organization that had just started, this was probably our biggest struggle. ”
Packets of diapers and wipes are distributed monthly to various partners such as HAWA, Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, Next Door Milwaukee, and Maroon Calabash. Occasionally, the group will prepare postpartum care kits and consider creating menopause care kits.
“It is a passion of our organization to support people in this season of life,” said Johnson.
Information on drop-off points, acceptable donations and more can be found here.