Milwaukee Diaper Mission, Governor Evers talks about the scarcity of layers and local needs

At the height of the pandemic, many low-income families found themselves from empty shelves when they went shopping for cleaning supplies, toilet paper and another essentials for those with young children: layers.

“Diaper shelves in stores were empty for a very long time,” remembers Meagan Johnson.

Johnson and his cousin Jessica Syburg co-founded the Milwaukee Diaper Mission in September 2020 to help fill that void.

Almost a year later, the mission hosted an event Saturday at Metcalfe Park Rising, 3401 W. Center St., where they were joined by several local officials, including Milwaukee County Director David Crowley and Governor Tony Evers, to raise awareness of the diaper shortage. among residents of Milwaukee.

Governor Evers addresses, left to right, Milwaukee Diaper Mission Board Member Allison Simmons, Executive Director Meagan Johnson and Board Member Jenni Stanton.  Photo taken during the Milwaukee Diaper Mission event held at Metcalfe Park Rising at 3401 W. Center St. on September 25, 2021.

Evers made a similar appearance as a Diaper Giveaway in February 2020, when United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County worked with the National Diaper Bank Network to donate approximately 25,000 diapers.

Crowley praised the Milwaukee Diaper Mission for helping Milwaukee achieve its racial equity goal while Governor Evers said he and his wife could attest to expenses and diaper needs, having raised three children and now having nine babies. -children.

“It’s not easy and this great group here has done a great job of making sure people have the layers they need.”

Later that day, he presented the group with a proclamation, declaring Sept. 27-Oct. 3 National Diaper Awareness Week.

The Milwaukee Diaper Mission is part of the National Diaper Bank Network, a group of diaper banks that work with community organizations to distribute diapers purchased directly from manufacturers; the founding sponsor of the national network is Huggies.

Almost 150,000 diapers distributed

Approximately 3,700 diapers were distributed to needy families at the event organized with Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, a local non-profit agency focused on supporting investment in the community.

One of those recipients was Willie Harrington, 28, the father of two boys, one 3 years old and the other four months old. He said his sister told him that diapers were being given out for free and that he decided to go downstairs.

He said that while he can find cheap diapers, they often don’t last and sometimes fall apart after the first use. “It saved me a few bucks,” he said, pointing to one of the diaper bags he picked up at the Milwaukee Diaper Mission booth.

Another participant, Michael Jones, agreed. “Diapers are too expensive, so it’s a blessing that they are handing them out here for the kids,” said the father of two 27-year-old girls.

Meagan Johnson, mother of two boys aged 2 and 5, started teaching cloth diapers in 2017.

Meagan Johnson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Milwaukee Diaper Mission, at an event to kick off National Diaper Awareness Week.

She said she never worried about buying diapers for her children. Then one of the moms in her class shared that she was at a stalemate because she couldn’t afford cloth diapers for her son, who had skin sensitivity to disposable diapers.

Johnson mobilized.

She scoured her own inventory and worked with other parents to put together a diaper care kit. After studying the diaper needs of low-income communities and the lack of awareness of cloth diapers, Johnson said she was inspired by the creation of a diaper bank.

Diaper banks, just like food banks, do not necessarily provide products directly to clients in need, but rather provide community organizations, such as Metcalfe Park Community Bridges.

“All of the organizations we work with are super local and community-based and a lot of them were already providing diapers and period products. However, the purpose of a diaper bank is to be a trusted source for these organizations, ”Johnson explained.

She said once the pandemic hit it was clear community organizations needed more support. “A lot of these organizations were using donor money to buy (diapers),” she said. “We can stretch the dollars a lot more because we have access to both wholesale and wholesale buying options.”

The Milwaukee Diaper Mission began working with Metcalfe Park Community Bridges over the summer. They currently provide a monthly supply of diapers.

Metcalfe Park Community Bridges is regularly involved in these types of resource events. Melody McCurtis and her mother, Danell Cross, as well as Britney Taylor have opened a self-help store called “Freedom Shop”, where diapers are regularly distributed in care packages.

RELATED:In Milwaukee’s Metcalfe Park, the Freedom Shop provides care packages to neighbors, filling gaps left by government and social services

McCurtis said while food insecurity has improved due to increased benefits, cleaning products, masks and baby supplies such as diapers are still in high demand. The partnership, she said, has been excellent in meeting at least part of that demand.

“It was awesome,” she said. “A lot of our (items) are donation-based, but (now we) have a reliable and constant supply of what our families need.”

With Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, the Milwaukee Diaper Mission works with groups such as Next Door Milwaukee, Hmong American Women’s Association, Riverwest Food Pantry, and others.

According to the organization’s website, she distributed nearly 150,000 disposable diapers and 1,800 washable diapers.

Governor Tony Evers chats with Danell Cross, Executive Director of Metcalfe Park Community Bridges at a Milwaukee Diaper Mission event held at Metcalfe Park Rising.

Johnson said the focus on cloth diapers, which had always been with the organization, peaked during the pandemic.

“We really saw an increase in demand for cloth diapers once they couldn’t find disposable diapers in stores,” Johnson said. “All the reasons Milwaukee Diaper Mission exist is because I wanted to find a way to bring cloth diapers to low income families because they have high start up costs and require a learning curve.”

“While it can be a higher upfront cost, families can save thousands of dollars or even more if they use these cloth diapers for a second child,” Johnson added.

Harrington said that while he can find diapers inexpensive, they often tear after just one use, making them more expensive in the long run.

“It’s all about the brand. You’ll pay a few extra dollars for two or three more uses, ”he said.

Federal programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) are supposed to provide some relief to parents, but research from organizations such as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities suggests that these funds – which must be stretched to cover other essentials – are hardly enough to cover the cost of diapers.

Harrington said more needed to be done to address the shortage. “The government needs to get more involved, so when women get these benefits, they too get pampered. “

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Contact Talis Shelbourne at (414) 403-6651 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @talisseer and message him on Facebook at @talisseer.

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