Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor welcomed volunteers and toured the Waukegan warehouse where baby, toddler and adult diapers, vintage supplies, infant formula, children’s books, baby seats, cars, winter coats and more are waiting to be distributed to the hundreds of families served by Keeping Families Covered.
“I am very impressed,” said Taylor, who on September 20, along with Waukegan City Council, proclaimed September 27 to October 3 as Diaper Awareness Week in the city.
“I knew you offered the diapers, but I didn’t know you had clothes and those other offerings too.”
The non-profit organization that Ann Marie Mathis created 11 years ago in her basement to provide mothers in need with lightly used equipment and clothing has indeed come a long way. Today, diapers, pull-ups and more are stacked over about two floors at his North Oak Grove Avenue facility. The organization serves 1,200 families and 1,800 children per month and is set to distribute 1.5 million diapers this year.
The National Diaper Bank Network, of which Keeping Families Covered has been a member since 2014, estimates that one in three families needs diapers. That is, they cannot afford enough diapers to keep their babies’ buttocks clean, dry and healthy.
The domino effect can include making it more difficult for parents to find and keep work, as daycare centers will not take babies without a sufficient supply of diapers for the day.
âThe more I learned about diaper needs, the more determined I was to do everything possible to meet them,â said Mathis, herself a mother of seven children aged 3 to 12.
With the help of a small group of volunteers, Keeping Families Covered operates monthly mobile pantries in Gurnee, Grayslake, Waukegan, Round Lake Park and Kenosha, Wisconsin, and weekly distributions in Highwood.
The agency recently partnered with six other like-minded Illinois nonprofits to form an advocacy coalition to raise awareness of unmet diaper needs.
âA lot of people don’t realize that programs like WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) and other government safety nets don’t cover diapers,â Mathis said. . âAnd efforts to lower the Illinois diaper tax rate have yet to be successful.
âThe unmet need for diapers is a major source of stress for parents, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet,â she said. âOn average, diapers cost $ 70 to $ 80 per month per child. For families living in poverty, this represents about 14% of their monthly income. These families need help, and we are here for them.
As she walked through the offices and warehouse of Keeping Families Covered, Taylor said she was amazed at the size, scope and efficiency of the operation. The need, she said, is certainly critical.
âAll of these items are so expensive,â Taylor said. “They say you can change a child’s diapers for $ 70 to $ 80 a month, but I think that’s a conservative estimate.”
And even that amount breaks the bank of thousands of families, Mathis added.
âMany parents have to choose between groceries and diapers,â she said. “It’s a vicious circle.”
In the diaper packing room during the tour, five volunteers filled packages of 25 diapers each, carefully labeling them by size and preparing them for distribution.
âOne thing I would say about this place is it’s so easy to volunteer,â said Gurnee resident Bryan Pearson, who was there with his wife, Sandy. “It’s so well organized.”
Mathis said there are many ways for those interested in volunteering. Thursday Night Wrappy Hours, Neighborhood Diaper Drives, and Saturday Duty Days are just a few examples, with more opportunities listed under the âHelp Out!â Heading. âTab on keepfamiliescovered.org.
A new changing table sponsorship program has also been launched, with cash donation options ranging from $ 500 to $ 5,000 and benefits ranging from social media ads to the company name and logo on the organization’s 16-foot trailer and box truck.
Mathis said his agency’s partnership with the National Diaper Bank Network allows Keeping Families Covered to buy diapers in bulk at a great price, so every dollar donated is stretched considerably.
Additional sponsorship details are available at keepfamiliescovered.org.
Taylor said she wished Mathis and her team continued success in achieving their goals, including advocating for reductions in sales taxes on items such as diapers and period supplies.
âWhat you do is really, really important,â the mayor said. “I am so impressed.”
â¢ To submit your news, visit dailyherald.com/share.