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Diapers Offer Lifeline for Babies, Families

Retired teacher founds the area’s first diaper bank.

Diapers Offer Lifeline for Babies, Families

The importance of diapers on quality of life, even life itself, wasn’t a connection Richboro’s Pat Kennedy made before reading about it in a 2009 Time magazine article. Kennedy, who last year retired from Newtown Friends School, where she taught first grade and kindergarten for 10 years, was surprised to read what diapers mean to those living below the poverty line.

For those of us with adequate means, diapers are a necessity – one we’re willing to drive to the convenience store in the middle of the night to get. We can clip coupons. We have numerous supermarkets and big box stores to which we can drive.

We can even choose to send less refuse to landfills by going the cloth diaper route, which requires our own washer and dryer. Laundromats often don’t allow diaper washing.

Kennedy, a grandmother, points out that to order a diaper service her daughter must have online access, a phone, credit and a permanent address.

Doesn’t matter which path we take, our children wear nearly 10 clean diapers a day, or approximately $100 a month – an expense, certainly, but also a necessity.

There are about 13 million American children for whom diapers are a luxury. Government-assistance programs such as food stamps and WIC don’t cover hygiene products.

“It seemed like a no-brainer: Why can’t you let people use food stamps to buy diapers?,” said Kennedy.

What’s a parent to do? They might empty solids out and put the diaper back on the baby. Or let the wet diaper dry before reusing. Or keep one wet diaper on all day.

Kennedy retold a tragic story shared with her, one where a young family fell on hard times. Clean diapers were a luxury they couldn’t afford, resulting in a terrible diaper rash for the child, leaving him inconsolable. Unable to calm his suffering son, the father lost his temper and the child lost his life.

Determined to make this story a rarity, Kennedy recently founded The Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank and deliveries began in January. “Slowly, but surely,” Kennedy said. “It’s been a huge learning curve.”

Along the way Kennedy learned there is also a need for adult diapers. Public assistance will only pay for adult diapers if the patient is in hospice care, she said.

The Diaper Bank recently delivered 1,600 adult diapers to Point Pleasant Pediatric Specialty Care. Bucks County Agency on Aging and Camden County Agency on Aging have also been recipients. They’ve also provided 300 to Magee Rehabilitation for their social workers to take with them on home visits.

A blogger recently argued that providing diapers makes people dependent on handouts. “I disagree,” said Kennedy. “These are people in crisis. We work with partners who seek whole solutions, not just handouts.”  

“Whole” solutions means providing services that help people towards self-sufficiency. Their four partners are Momobile/Maternity Care Coalition, The Bucks County Housing Group, Inc., St. Vincent de Paul/Heart of Camden and The Interfaith Hospitality Network of Northwest Philadelphia.

The Diaper Bank has a waiting list for partners. The push now is for diaper drives.

in Richboro is collecting diapers as part of their food drive during March. Newtown Friends School has a diaper drive March 21 through April 7. Kennedy has collected from individuals, book clubs, Girl Scouts and Bible study groups. She would welcome other drives and donations.

“The community has been really responsive, very supportive,” she said. “People feel like it’s something they can do and have an impact. People want to help and they’re looking for opportunities.”


Visit www.philadelphiadiaperbank.org to donate via Paypal or to see a list of area diaper drives.

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