SHELBY — When Lydia Dennin had her son, she needed baby supplies.
Lucky for her, in North Carolina, she found an organization that provided free diapers to anyone who needed them.
Years later, when Dennin was working on her master’s in social work, she needed to work on a research paper and remembered that time in her life and decided to do research on diaper needs in local communities and, since she lives in Shelby, she started there.
“During my undergrad, I surveyed Shelby residents, asking if they’ve ever not paid rent or not paid a utility bill so they could afford diapers. I also asked if they had ever borrowed money or asked family and friends to help with diapers. I only got 25 responses, which wasn’t a good sample size.”
However, from those 25 responses, all but two respondents had done at least one of the four things she mentioned.
When Dennin went on to do her master’s degree, she turned her focus to the National Diaper Bank’s research and looked specifically at Ohio. As of March 2021, 30% of infants received the WIC program (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), with the national average at 24%, and 21% of children in Ohio under the age of three receive TANF benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). These children would all fall into the category of using and needing diapers.
As of December 2022, the average cost of one diaper was 29 cents, which comes to approximately $70 per month and $840 per year. SNAP (the Ohio Supplemental Nutrition Program) only covers food, so it cannot be used toward diapers. For many low-income families, this is the only assistance they receive at any given time. This concerned Dennin.
“That’s when I found out about the national diaper bank network,” said Dennin. “And through my research I found that people average 10 to 12 diapers short a week, and then they can’t take their kids to daycare, and then if they can’t take their kids to daycare, they can’t go to work…and then the cycle just continues.”
Inspired by this, Dennin started having local meetings and collecting donations in December of 2021. Originally the concept was to be open once a week at a different church each week in Shelby, but she couldn’t find enough churches willing to allow her to use their locations. Finally, Pastor James Robinson, of the First Presbyterian Church of Shelby, said her group could not only pass out diapers once a month from his church, but could use a room upstairs to store the diapers and supplies.
In February of 2022, Dennin moved the growing diaper supplies piling up in her house to the church and up the two flights of stairs to the third floor where they are now stored.
“Our first month open, actually handing out diapers, was in April of 2022. I wanted to have 10,000 diapers before we opened because I thought we would be hugely busy, but we were not.”
They handed out 40 diapers that first month. Dennin realized she needed to get the word out, so she made flyers and gave them to school counselors, posted about the pick-up dates and times on Facebook’s garage sale sites and local community sites, and put up flyers around town. Word started getting out, and the Diaper Bank was soon giving away approximately 500 diapers per month.
In September of 2022, Dennin really pushed advertising the diaper bank and was rewarded with handing out 960 diapers in October, their biggest month to date.
Although they have a short form for people to fill out, nobody is required to provide their name. The Diaper Bank mainly needs to know the diaper sizes they are passing out the most, and if people do put their names on the forms, it helps to keep track of how many people are coming back. This is just for informational purposes for the Diaper Bank.
Betheny Brown-Atherton of Mansfield, found out about the Diaper Bank a few months after it started.
“I saw it on Facebook,” said Atherton. Since then, she’s been going every month. Even though she doesn’t live in Shelby, she says the once-a-month trip is worth it. “I have a one-and-a-half-year-old son,” said Atherton. “I go through about 90 diapers every month.”
She spends close to $70 each month on diapers and $20 on wipes. Atherton’s husband works, but she’s a stay-at-home mom.
Getting 40 free diapers a month is a huge relief for them.
When asked what she likes about the Diaper Bank (besides the diapers and other items), Atherton quickly said, “Their friendliness and how they truly care about these little babies. They want to make sure they have enough diapers.”
What the Diaper Bank needs most, are donations. Dennin is often spending her own money each month so that they have enough diapers to pass out. The diapers they go through the fastest are sizes 4, 5, 6, and 7, which are the most in demand, besides wipes, and Desitin. They have a Facebook page called “No Bottom Wet Behind” where you can contact them so they can pick up donations, but there is also a link to an Amazon Wish List of items the Diaper Bank needs on the page.
Dennin’s dream is to have more of these Diaper Banks in other cities.
“There is obviously a huge need. If we can get enough regular donors and enough volunteers, then we can open other Diaper Banks in other areas and serve so many more babies.”
The Diaper Bank hands out 40 diapers per child on the fourth Monday of every month from the side door of the First Presbyterian Church of Shelby (between the church and the post office parking lot), from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Each person is given 40 diapers per child, a pack of wipes, and Desitin when available. They have diapers of all sizes.