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Mothering › Baby Articles › Free Cloth Diapers Change a Community

Free Cloth Diapers Change a Community

Heiny Helpers LogoThank you to Rev. Caela Simmons Wood for this guest post.

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 Heiny Helpers in Actionfamily 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


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.

Comments (15)

I have been looking for someone to benefit from my cloth diapers that I originally purchased for my now 14 month old. I have a full starter set for a newborn that are VERY gently used. I would love to donate them if you would like to email me with the details.
This is a great thing these moms are doing:) There is also another organization helping out with cloth diapers, they are The Cloth Diaper Foundation, Inc. here is their facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/clothdiaperfoundation?ref=ts
Tina - we would LOVE to have your diapers. You can mail them to: Heiny Helpers c/o First United Church 2420 E Third St Bloomington, IN 47401 Many thanks!
Hi.. If someone can help me with getting some cloth diapers.. I don't need much.. I have 12 but my friends who use them say 12 won't be enough to make this work. I am due May 3rd. I left my email is anyone can help.. Thanks Rebecca
Also I will donate anything I get back when I am finished.. Thank you
I have quite a few diapers/covers, I'll look into sending over (though, they are mostly prefolds and a few AIO). I'd love to know how these families wash the diapers. That's been the biggest barrier to having women switch to cloth here in LA. Instead, most of the moms I know donate to a disposable diaper fundraiser. (From what I'm told women here will often change sposies less to save money when they can't really afford a new package).
That is exactly why I'm not using cloth diapers, didn't hire a doula, didn't take Bradley Birth classes, and the list goes on. I think this is a wonderful idea!
There was a group near me that was collecting old t-shirts and other material for high school home ec classes to use for making cloth diapers for low-income women. I never managed to find a website about the project - the closest is http://is.gd/Cnw4rs (search for diapers within the page). Such a great idea! Reducing waste, teaching young people about cloth diapers and sewing, and getting cloth diapers to people who can't afford them (in turn reducing even more waste), all in one blow.
Jinni - We wondered about this, too, when we started Heiny Helpers. We knew we'd be hitting a particular niche of people....low income enough to need assistance buying a stash, but high income enough to have access to a washer/dryer. It turns out that we found LOTS of people who fit this criteria. Our income qualifications say that a family needs to qualify for WIC (meaning they're 185% of the poverty level) to borrow diapers from us. In our experience, so far, there have been plenty of families who qualify for WIC that have access to w/d. Part of why we're staying local with our organization is because we do a lot of pre-meeting and face-to-face consultation with the families. Our mission is not just to give away diapers, but also to educate families about how to use them. We want to set families up for success so they will have a good experience and share that excitement with others. We also follow up with families after their meetings at regular intervals to see how it's going and help troubleshoot any problems. So we spend time talking with the families about their plant to w/d and the costs associated with that. We want to make sure it's realistic for them. We would love to have your prefolds and AIOs if you want to send them our way. I posted the address in a comment above. It occurs to me that we may just have better access to in-home w/d hookups being in a smaller town. Perhaps those are just harder to find in a big city like LA? I am happy there are orgs that help families get disposables, too. We recognize that cloth simply can't work for everyone. We just want to make it accessible for those who CAN do it but just need a little help.
I used cloth diapers for both my kids but I have spent a lot of time thinking about how people with less (monetary) means could do the same. What a wonderful idea!! Maybe I can work on something like this in my area. Go!!
This is an amazing idea! How can we start a Heiny Helpers in our local communities??
I would love to start something like that here in my area in Canada, and I am also looking for some cloth diapers if anyone is interested.
I'd love to do cloth diapers. I have not one and can not afford, and am due may 11...
How do recipients handle the washing? I know a lot of low income individuals in my area have shared washing machines and/or must use (and pay) at the laundromat.
I know I am not in your area but being pregnant with my 3rd child i would really love to cloth diaper so that I wont have to spend so much money purchasing disposables for the kids. If anyone would be willing to help me out, I would greatly appreciate it and maybe we can work something out where I can pay a reduced price or something. Also, if anyone knows of any other organizations that work with PA residents please let me know
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