How do you collect 1 million diapers in six weeks? One box at a time.
With a flourish, HomeFront officials rolled up the metal doors on its Diaper Resource Center to reveal boxes and boxes of diapers at a special celebration May 10.
New Jersey’s First Lady, Tammy Murphy, was on hand to help HomeFront celebrate its achievement at the event, held at the HomeFront Family Campus in Ewing Township.
The Lawrence Township-based nonprofit, which helps the homeless and the working poor, set out to collect 250,000 diapers and baby wipes in the six-week period leading up to Mother’s Day.
But as box after box of diapers and wipes poured in, HomeFront upped its goal to 500,000 diapers and wipes.
In the last week before Mother’s Day, about 300,000 diapers were dropped off to be stored in the Diaper Resource Center, much to the group’s surprise.
When the last box of diapers arrived and its contents were counted and added to the tally, HomeFront officials were amazed to learn that they had collected more than 1 million diapers. They shared their gratitude with HomeFront supporters at the May 10 event, the day after Mother’s Day.
“It is so wonderful to have our friends here. Thanks to an incredible, caring and generous community, behind these garage doors are a whole lot of diapers – so, so many,” said Connie Mercer, HomeFront’s founder and chief executive officer as she gestured toward the Diaper Resource Center warehouse.
“If today shows anything, it is that we met the challenge,” Mercer said.
Diapers are a stressor for low budget families, she said. It costs about $80 per month to keep a child in diapers. Keeping a child in soiled diapers because there is not enough money to buy them will lead to diaper rash, she said.
And because daycare centers require parents to supply diapers for their child, the inability to do so can lead to a child being ineligible for child care. When the mother has no daycare, she cannot work and the family may become homeless, Mercer said.
“Diapers are actually a barrier against homelessness. Diapers can save jobs and they can save dreams, in addition to babies’ bottoms,” Mercer said, pointing to the stack of boxes of diapers in front of the Diaper Resource Center.
The Diaper Resource Center, which opened in 2018, had been a dream for Mercer since the days when a group of women – Mercer included – visited motels along Brunswick Pike in Lawrence Township to feed hungry, homeless families.
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 stepped in to fill the void and provides diapers to families in need.
Sarah Steward, HomeFront’s chief operating officer, said that forming partnerships with donors and agencies is at the heart of what HomeFront does. One of those partners is Murphy, she said.
Introducing Murphy to the attendees, Steward said the governor’s wife knows that the strength of New Jersey is the strength of its families, and she also recognizes the importance of maternal and child health care.
“I am really so grateful for all that HomeFront has done. I am grateful to count HomeFront as a key partner in our mission to support mothers and children,” Murphy said, noting that she visited HomeFront in 2019.
Murphy said the availability of diapers through a resource such as HomeFront’s Diaper Resource Center serves as a lifeline for helping moms to make ends meet. A reliable resource for diapers can make “a world of difference,” she said.
“This is beyond wonderful,” Murphy said of HomeFront’s Mother’s Day diaper drive.
Turning to her own initiative – Nurture New Jersey – Murphy said there is a maternal health care crisis among Black mothers and babies, and that initiative intends to reduce it.
Black mothers are seven times more likely to die of maternity-related complications than White mothers in New Jersey, she said. Black babies are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than White babies.
To resolve that crisis will take an “all hands on deck” approach, Murphy said. Nurture New Jersey lays out a blueprint to ensure that New Jersey mothers and children get off to a healthy start in life.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” she said. “Knowing we already have motivated partners like HomeFront ready to work with us and collaborate makes it all the more certain that we will not only resolve the crisis, but also make New Jersey the gold standard and national leader for maternal health.”