Diaper Bank of North Carolina is Covering Bottoms and Distributing Dignity
Michelle Old adopted her youngest son at one day old. For the first year and a half of his life, he was very sick with a weakened immune system that required up to five hospital visits per month. Michelle needed to change his diaper 30-40 times per day because something as simple as a diaper rash could lead to infection.
“I was spending a lot of time in a hospital room with this little boy that I love dearly, and I started thinking ‘what do families do if they can’t easily pick up that next diaper and their child’s sick?’”
That experience inspired Michelle to launch the Diaper Bank of North Carolina from her kitchen table. Her goal was to provide 50,000 diapers per year in just Durham. 10 years later and her organization is now the largest diaper bank in the country, providing 7.5M diapers per year through three warehouses across the state.
“One in two families experience diaper need. There’s no assistance for diapers. WIC and food stamps don’t cover them, and they can cost over a hundred dollars a month,” Michelle explained. “Families are literally making choices between buying food or buying diapers. 100% of the time they will choose to feed their children and try to make those diapers last as long as they can.”
From both research and experience, Michelle and her team know that if a family is struggling to afford diapers, they’re likely fighting for other needs too. That’s why they distribute all products through organizations working directly with families. These partnerships have led to as much of an 83% increase in home visits and client retention – all because social workers come to the appointments with diapers in hand.
“We’ve seen a 30% increase in the number of families requesting help lately, the majority of them single mothers with young children,” shared Marcus Harris Foundation, one of the Diaper Bank’s partner agencies. “All of them have told us… they wouldn’t be able to afford the [diapers and baby supplies] on their own. Your support means everything to them right now.”
While Diaper Bank’s offerings have expanded since launching to include period products and adult incontinence supplies, Michelle’s vision has always been big enough for everyone.
“What I did imagine, and what I do imagine, is that families don’t have to struggle so hard for basic hygiene items, that seniors don’t have to struggle for their dignity items every month, and that students can go to school and not have to worry about not having period products. So, I will continue to do this work for another 10 or 20 years until we make sure that that’s not an issue here in our community.