For struggling families with young children, the seemingly endless need for baby diapers can prove a real financial strain.
Realizing the need, a local nonprofit group recently teamed up with a diaper company to donate more than 11,000 disposable diapers to an organization serving more than 75 social service groups in Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore.
The Junior League of Annapolis collected the diapers through donations from its 400 members and by holding diaper drives outside local stores in November and December. The league distributed the diapers to Food Link Inc. and its Baby Pantry program, which provides free diapers, formula, clothes and other essentials for needy mothers.
Huggies' Every Little Bottom campaign, which aims to spread awareness about the need for access to diapers for financially struggling families, approached the Junior League, a national nonprofit with an all-female membership that promotes volunteerism, to help educate the public about the issue.
According to a 2008 study commissioned by Huggies, researchers from Canada and the United States found that mothers in financial hardship reported cutting back on essentials like food and skipping paying bills in order to have enough diapers for their baby.
"Parents face tough tradeoffs and sometimes must cut back on other basic essentials when trying to meet this basic need — a struggle which has become more pronounced in the economic downturn," according to the study.
Lisa Snyder, a member and former president of the Annapolis chapter of the Junior League, said the group held several diaper drives, including outside Sam's Club in Annapolis and at Annapolis Town Centre in Parole.
"It was just a perfect pairing," said Snyder, who lives in Davidsonville and said it took several packed cars to deliver all of the diapers just before Christmas. "The community really rallied. People were generous. A lot of moms … know the expense they pay to put their babies and toddlers in diapers."
Cathy L. Holstrom, executive director of Food Link Inc., received the donation to its Baby Pantry program late last month and has began distributing the diapers to families directly and through social workers, churches and other community outreach groups.
"It was absolutely unbelievable," said Holstrom, who has served as Food Link's director since 2001. "It's tremendous. Diapers and formula are very expensive. If there's a family that's struggling, those things are tough to come by."
The Baby Pantry was established in 1995 in an effort to help support families with young children. Almost 20 years ago, Food Link was founded in an effort to alleviate hunger. Food Link distributes the donated food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, foster care group homes, emergency food pantries, treatment and rehabilitation centers, public housing sites, battered women's shelters, and senior citizen facilities.
The Baby Pantry is a "small part" of Food Link's annual $227,000 budget, said Holstrom.
Food Link, which is funded through donations and community grants, also runs a small food pantry on Riva Road in Annapolis, where the Baby Pantry is located. Last year, about 15,000 families received services through Food Link's programs, Holstrom said.