KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Below the sanctuary at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in their basement and near the Christmas wrapping paper are thousands and thousands of diapers. All of them brand new, sealed in boxes. And all of them waiting to be distributed to families who can’t afford them.
“We’re hoping to get to 50,000 this year,” said Meredith Bradford, chairwoman of St. Luke's Diaper Bank. “It’s a really big goal but we are confident that we have some really amazing people in our community and some really great organizations and businesses that are being community donations sites for people to drop of diapers.”
Since September 11th the Diaper Bank has been hosting their annual Diaper Drive at their church on Lovell Street. Bradford said last year they exceeded their goal of collecting 25,000 diapers. This time around, they’re looking to exceed expectations again.
“It sounds phenomenal but in an infant’s first year of life they require anywhere from 2,500 to 4,500 diapers,” said Bradford during an interview at the church. “So those diapers go really really fast.”
Bradford said the need for diapers in Kalamazoo is great. One third of all families are struggling to provide diapers for their infants and children. After paying rent and other utilities, parents don’t have enough money to buy a box of diapers. So they reuse old ones.
“It’s heartbreaking. Children and infants, they’re left in diapers far longer than they should be,” said Bradford. “This has health consequences for the infant. It provides stress for the parents knowing that they cannot provide diapers for their children.”
And their options are limited. Parents on SNAP or food stamps are not allowed to use their funds to purchase diapers, Bradford said. It’s a non-food item listed in the same category as tobacco and alcohol.
“There are families that are struggling,” said Bradford. “There are families that are making a decision whether they can afford groceries or pay they’re utility bills or provide diapers.”
She said the financial strain also hinders parents from sending their children to daycare because they have to provide the school with a week’s worth of diapers.
“If a child can’t go to a daycare, that parent or caregiver can’t go to work or can’t go to school to try to possibly better their lives,” said Bradford.
St. Luke’s Diaper Bank is working to change that. The drive goes until October 11th and so far they’ve collected 12,000 diapers and other necesities like baby wipes and diaper cream. Bradford said children can go through up to 12 diapers a day. So no donation is too small.
“I want people to know that diapers are expensive and families are suffering in Kalamazoo,” said Bradford. “We have an opportunity to come together as a community and provide for their infants and help provide for our neighbors.”
Donations to the diaper bank can be made online or dropped off at the following locations:
- St. Luke's Church (247 W. Lovell St.)
- Kalamazoo College (Dewing Hall, HIcks Center and Arcus)
- Kalamazoo Community Foundation (402 E. Michigan Ave.)
- Fontana Chamber Arts (359 S. Kalamazoo Mall)
- Down Dog Yoga (316 S. Kalamazoo Mall #108)
- Bright Futures Pediatrics (714 N. 9th St.)