In 2010, Corinne Cannon founded the Greater DC Diaper Bank (GDCDB) on her eldest son’s first birthday. She and her husband lived and worked on Capitol Hill at the time and as new parents, they soon felt overwhelmed by the economics of parenthood, even though they had a supportive family and financial resources available to them. They recognized that while they were able to afford the high costs of diapers and baby care items needed for their little one, not every family in the D.C. region was as lucky. Families spend on average $150 per baby per month for diapers, which are not covered by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Federal assistance programs. Corinne founded GDCDB to fill the diaper bank void in D.C., and today the GDCDB is one of the largest diaper banks in the country, distributing on average nine million diapers a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of feminine hygiene essentials, baby care and baby gear items.
Diaper Need Causes Significant Financial Stress
In 2020 across the Washington, D.C. region, pre-COVID, 19.7% of children under 5 were living in poverty (U.S. Census Bureau). Diaper need causes significant financial stress, forcing caregivers to make heartbreaking decisions between food, rent, medical expenses, transportation or diapers. GDCDB wants to ensure that all families have what they need to thrive in our region and they provide diapers and other baby care items to a Diaper Distribution Network of over 75 social service organizations that offer direct services. Their network is delivering on average 850,000 diapers to more than 5,000 families and 5,750 babies each month across Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Equally important is that the diapers serve as a trust-building, “gateway resource” between the client and the agency. The 2021 Diaper Distribution Network Survey cites that clients receiving diapers are 88% more likely to keep appointments and 92% more likely to ask for assistance with other needs from the agency. The lifeline of a diaper creates rippling effects across each family served.
At the start of the pandemic, GDCDB quickly ramped up operations and added new distribution network partner hubs to their network to meet the demand. They completed a planned expansion of their warehouse in March 2020, which aided their increased operations. They distributed 6.1 million diapers in 2020, a threefold increase from their 2019 operations.
The 25 Millionth Diaper!
In March 2022, they distributed their 25 millionth diaper! Of the Diaper Bank’s growth, Founder and Executive Director Corinne Cannon says, “12 years ago we were operating out of my home – now we have 10,000 square feet of warehouse space. Our belief that all families deserve an equal chance has not changed, but in these 12 years we’ve seen consistent growth serving more and more families year over year. In spite of the challenges posed by COVID, what we’ve learned since 2020 is that our model works, and it can be replicated on a much larger scale in times of crisis, when families have been thrust into financial instability and need additional help.” Gwen Pope, Manager of the SHABACH Emergency Resource Center, a partner who received the Diaper Bank’s first and millionth diapers, was on hand to receive the 25th millionth diaper. She says, “Families feel immediate relief when getting diapers. Not only does it ease some of that financial stress, but it eases emotional stress and anxiety over your child’s health, giving caregivers more time to bond with their child. Diapers are an essential community service that we are glad to be able to provide.”
The GDCDB is celebrated as a leading nonprofit organization, recognized by the Catalogue for Philanthropy: DC as one the best small nonprofits sparking big change across our region. In 2022, they received Candid’s Platinum rating, the highest rating a nonprofit can achieve for financial transparency and accountability. Greater DC Diaper Bank is also recognized locally for its excellent volunteer engagement. They rely on a robust network of volunteer “Diaper Ambassadors” in the community to collect and receive donations at their homes, so donors can drop off non monetary donations at sites close to their homes. Donating to the Diaper Ambassadors is a great way to dispose of unused child and adult diapers that are no longer needed and prevent these expensive items from ending up wasted in a landfill.
The GDCDB also prides itself on its ability to host volunteers of all ages, even the littlest ones! Their diaper bundling sessions are an incredibly accessible volunteer activity for age and ability groups of all levels. They even offer a play space in their Silver Spring, Md. warehouse locations to enable parents to volunteer while their children play. Children are welcome to volunteer or attend with their parents, as long as they can wear a mask for the duration of the two-hour volunteer session.
GDCDB meets donors where they are, recognizing that each donor has something vital to give in support of their lifesaving mission – time, talent, treasure or testimony. They welcome peer-to-peer fundraisers in celebration of a birthday, baby shower or other important milestone and provide several suggestions on ways to give on their website. The Diaper Bank also extends a lifeline to individuals who menstruate. They launched The Monthly project in response to past surveys that indicated clients who receive their diapers shared that they often go without buying period products in order to purchase food or other basic needs. Not only are tampons and pads roughly $7 per box, but in many states, including Washington, D.C., they are also taxed as luxury items. Their Monthly campaign now distributes period products to over 40 nonprofits across the region. The GDCDB also encourages The Monthly participants to lead community engagement by writing elected officials to drop the luxury taxes on period products or testifying at city/regional hearings on the topic.
In 2022, GDCDB expects that the needs of our region will only continue to increase due to the endemic pandemic and the increasing inflation costs. To learn more about how you support the Greater DC Diaper Bank, to find a Diaper Ambassador in your neighborhood or to sign up to volunteer, please visit their website: greaterdcdiaperbank.org.