So for all of you wondering how to teach your kids to be kind, how to introduce the idea of volunteerism and giving back, the original story we ran about Canon and the Diaper Bank is a good place to start. — Amy Joyce, On Parenting editor
Finding a way to instill a commitment to volunteerism in my children is not easy. As I stress about being late to the PTA meeting or I pass up the plate at church explaining that we already contributed online, I fear that I am not providing a clear – or positive – example of how the adults in our family help others.
But when we walked into the DC Diaper Bank and feasted our eyes on towering stacks of thousands of diapers, the concept of need was immediately clear. Although my 3-year-old Alice does not comprehend the point of lobbying Congress, she can sure understand the importance of a clean, dry booty.
Alice and I met DC Diaper Bank Executive Director Corinne Cannon and her one-year-old daughter Callie for a “social good playdate” at DC Diaper Bank’s headquarters in Silver Spring. While our big kids were at school, our youngest girls played in the colorful children’s toy area, drew on the chalkboard-painted walls and climbed on the couches (all donated). In between snack breaks and my reminders to Alice to be gentle with Callie, Cannon explained to me the goals and growth of the area’s very first diaper bank.
Cannon founded DC Diaper Bank in 2010 after the birth of her first child and while working full-time at ICF International. Cannon could not believe that while 44 percent of Washington kids under the age of three live in low-income families, there was not a solid diaper donation network in the area. Juggling career, family and a growing non-profit, she gave up things such as sleep to coordinate the donation of more than 50,000 diapers to 2,000 families each month in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
In 2013 the diaper bank moved its headquarters from within the Capital Area Food Bank to its own space, and Cannon made the decision to devote herself to it full time. Although the new space provides administrative challenges (such as the need to pay rent when Cannon has yet to pay herself a salary), Cannon says that the physical plant has made a great impact in how they connect with their volunteer community of all ages.
“We sought to create a space where families can come together and talk about what it is to give back, and do it in a tangible way kids can understand. Parents can bring their children with them and volunteer together. Kids can host a diaper drive — we have had lemonade stand diaper drives — bring their donations, then work to bundle diapers that will be delivered to families who live near them. It is a way for volunteering to be full circle, for people to see the whole process.”
DC Diaper Bank welcomes — and depends on — volunteers to assist in counting, bundling, packaging and distributing the diapers delivered to the warehouse. This summer their volunteer need is greater than ever, as Huggies and the National Diaper Bank Network organized a donation of a quarter of a million diapers to be delivered to DC Diaper Bank May 2. This large-scale donation filled their space to the brim, and many hands are needed to get those diapers out the door and into the hands of local families.
“June, July, August, September — that’s when we really need volunteers. Around the holidays is when donations and volunteer hours are the greatest, so we would love assistance during those lighter months,” says Cannon.
DC Diaper Bank welcomes children’s clubs, Scout troops, moms’ groups and any group of five or more to schedule times to come in and lend a hand this summer. Individual families can drop by during their family friendly volunteer hours, typically Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Children of all ages and ability levels are welcome — Cannon says that one of their most dedicated volunteer groups is a Learning for Independence (LFI) group.
DC Diaper Bank’s Wine/Whine Wednesdays is a genius merging of social good and a moms’ night out. On Wednesdays, parents leave the kids at home, BYOB and bundle diapers. Parents (okay, especially moms) can meet up with the friends, and new and new-to-the-area moms can get out of the house and meet other mothers. Monthly Distribution Days are also one of the most critical volunteer days for the diaper bank, as this the day for loading 50,000 diapers onto 18 trucks headed for the diaper distribution centers.
With two little kids, a husband and 2,000 families in her service, I am inclined to believe Cannon has plenty on her plate. But DC Diaper Bank is growing to include food and other essential items for children in need. Calling this project The Baby Pantry: Food & Other Essentials, DC Diaper Bank will now also accept unopened and unexpired formula, new baby food jars and pouches, baby care items and more (see full list). To celebrate this growth and Mother’s Day, they are hosting eight Baby Pantry Drives with area Whole Foods stores in May — check out all the dates and locations you can pop by and donate.
As Alice and I waved bye-bye to Callie and Corinne at the end of our playdate, I marveled at Cannon’s dedication and energy. If she can volunteer every day while raising her family, I can surely dedicate few hours a month to helping other mothers with children…with my own children by my side. Or with girlfriends! Want to meet me next Wednesday? I’ll bring the pinot noir.
Jessica McFadden is mother of three and blogs about DC-area family life at A Parent in Silver Spring.