HomeFront wants to collect 250,000 diapers and wipes by Mother’s Day on May 9 so it can land a spot in the Guinness World Records book – but more importantly, to help families who cannot afford to keep their babies in diapers.
HomeFront, which helps the homeless and the working poor, operates its own Diaper Resource Center in a blue warehouse building at its Family Preservation Campus in Ewing Township. The nonprofit group’s headquarters is in Lawrence Township.
While the Mother’s Day diaper drive aims to set a world record, it is also another way to honor the donors’ own mothers who cared for them and also to help another set of mothers take care of the children they love, HomeFront officials said.
Diapers of all sizes are needed. Diapers and wipes may be dropped off weekdays, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., at HomeFront’s headquarters at 1880 Princeton Ave. in Lawrence Township. They may also be dropped off on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hard for parents to find enough money in the budget to pay for diapers and wipes, HomeFront officials said. One in three mothers nationwide cannot afford enough diapers, which cost an average of $80 per month per child.
There are no state or federal child safety net programs that allocate dollars specifically for the purchase of diapers. Food stamps cannot be used to pay for diapers, and that’s why HomeFront’s Diaper Resource Center is so important, HomeFront officials said.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have distributed more than 630,000 diapers and wipes,” said Catherine Cozzi, HomeFront’s Resource Network director. “Our shelves are getting bare. We need to restock so we can continue to be there for families who are suffering.”
The Diaper Resource Center creates some room in the budget so that families who are trying to make ends meet can have help in getting diapers. If that need goes unmet, parents need to make hard choices – like less frequent diaper changes.
“We have seen the most horrific cases of diaper rash because parents change diapers on a set schedule, as opposed to when there is a need, because they just don’t have enough diapers,” said Connie Mercer, Homefront’s executive director.
Diapers are a necessity to keep a child healthy, and the kind of shame that parents feel when they can’t keep their baby clean is overwhelming, Mercer said.
But it’s more than just having enough diapers to keep a baby clean and dry, HomeFront officials said. Without diapers, a baby cannot take part in early childhood education, and without childcare, parents cannot hold down a job. Most childcare programs require parents to provide diapers.
“This is about helping parents work. If children need access to disposable diapers to attend a daycare program, without those diapers parents can’t go to work,” Mercer said. “Childcare is a critical link to help families get to work, and diapers are a key part of that.”
The Diaper Resource Center, which opened in 2018, had been a dream for Mercer since the days when a group of women – herself included – visited the motels along Brunswick Pike in Lawrence Township to feed hungry, homeless families.
“I had this dream for years. The moms would ask if we had diapers for them. We could not meet that need, and it broke my heart,” said Mercer, who founded HomeFront.
While there are food banks that help families in need of food, such a resource does not exist for diapers and wipes. HomeFront’s Diaper Resource Center has stepped into the void and provides diapers to families in need, Mercer said.