There is a great irony in the world of cloth diapering. The parents who could benefit the most from the financial savings associated with cloth diapering are often times the very parents who can’t get together enough cash to begin the process. Sure, saving $2,000 on diapers sounds amazing. Especially if you’re a family that’s living paycheck to paycheck. But when you start looking into the options and find that you probably need at least $250 to get a decent set of diapers together it’s more realistic to just keep buying disposables one pack at a time.
A few months ago, I joined up with a couple of other mamas in my church who cloth diaper and started talking about how we might be able to help families who truly need to stop buying disposable diapers. We decided our organization – Heiny Helpers – would focus on putting a full set of cloth diapers into the hands parents in our community who were experiencing low income. Our online application went live on January 26 and we saw an immediate response from our community. In our first two weeks, we put 9 babies into cloth and we currently have 13 more babies waiting for meetings with us. We have received 8 applications in the past 72 hours alone! Clearly we have found an area of need in our community.
We work with families who qualify for the federal WIC program – meaning they make at or below 185% of the poverty level. Each family meets with us and learns about various kinds of cloth diapers and how to care for them. Then we go through our big stash of diapers and put together a package that will work for their family. Each family gets a mix of new and used cloth diapers. And each family promises to return the diapers to us when they are done with them so that we can help another family.
Business is booming. The three of us on our current board are doing what we can just to keep up with handing out diapers and following up with these families to see how their switch to cloth is going. But we also have to think about our long-term sustainability. We need help from anyone who thinks this is a great idea. We are accepting financial contributions on our website, but we also have a great need for gently used diapers. We are hoping to become a success story – and we are truly hoping that other organizations like ours will start in other parts of the world. We’ve already received inquiries from Michigan, Georgia, and Washington – but we aren’t set up to work with families long-distance.
Each family that we switch to cloth means so much more than just another cute, fluffy bottom. It means 7,000ish “disposable” diapers out of a landfill. It means one more step toward cloth diapering becoming normative in our culture. It means a better future for all our children – not just the ones who need our help at the moment.
Rev. Caela Simmons Wood is a cloth diapering mama and one of the founders of Heiny Helpers. You can reach Caela at info AT heinyhelpers.org and you can also follow our shenanigans on Facebook.
From Mothering.com: Do you know of actions like this being taken anywhere else in the country? Would you consider starting one in your own community?
Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one’s best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.