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Giving back this season and beyond: The DC Diaper Bank and its energetic owner

Corinne Canon with daughter Callie on one of the first diaper drives. (Courtesy DC Diaper Bank)
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The following piece originally posted here in May. But there’s a new lede: Corinne Canon, the founder of the DC Diaper Bank, was recently named a 2014 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth. She’s being honored for her work providing diapers and other essentials to low-income families in the D.C. region. Canon received $10,000 for her charity, and has a chance to receive $25,000 more for the Diaper Bank — just in time for the Bank’s 4th anniversary.

(Incidentally, there is another local finalist for the reward. Deborah Snyder founded Alexandria-based Operation Renewed Hope to find housing for homeless veterans. Amazing work.)

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 1-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). 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 3 lives 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 past summer, Huggies and the National Diaper Bank Network organized a donation of a quarter of a million diapers to be delivered to DC Diaper Bank. This large-scale donation filled their space to the brim, and many hands were needed to get those diapers out the door and to local families.

A note about trying to volunteer at time of year:

“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. 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 is 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).

As Alice and I waved bye-bye to Callie and Corinne at the end of our play date, 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

You may also be interested in:

5 ways to raise kind kids

Ideas to help children learn to give back

Teaching a child about generosity

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