When Ellen Filgo launched the Waco Diaper Bank a year ago, she had dreams of helping a list of 15 agencies with all their diaper needs.

While she knew that was a lofty goal because of the area’s high poverty rate, supplying just two local organizations has proved to be a challenge, Filgo said.

But that’s not going to deter the Baylor University librarian, wife and mother of two.

Filgo launched the project a year ago as a “labor of love” and she isn’t slowing down anytime soon, she said.

During the first diaper drive, the group collected more than 28,000 diapers.

“We gave all that to Caritas,” she said. “They called me in two months and said, ‘We need more diapers.’ I was like, what? I don’t have any more diapers to give you right now.”

Six months in, Filgo realized her dining room was no longer suitable for gathering the diapers into sets of 25 and wrapping them to be delivered. With the help of a women’s group at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, which sponsors the diaper bank, enough money was raised to put the group into a storage unit with enough space to store and package the diapers, she said.

They now distribute diapers to Caritas and the Veterans One Stop.

Filgo said her goals for 2017 include making the bank sustainable, getting more shelving, fully supplying the two agencies and possibly taking on one more organization.

She said the group held a drive in December, and the community donated about 8,000 diapers.

“It’s really exciting to see how the community comes together,” she said.

Many people donate individual diapers, because as a child grows out of one size, the parents will bring what’s left.

Domtar Personal Care has also made large donations and has agreed to have someone serve on the diaper bank’s board of advisers, Filgo said. Domtar manufactures diapers, among other products.

Diapers aren’t something a parent can just cut back on when struggling with money, she said.

“The problem is that diapers are expensive, and they are not covered by any kind of state or federal assistance programs,” she said. “They are very expensive.”

Unhealthy situations

There are situations where parents will leave their children in diapers longer than is healthy, which can lead to sores and other diseases, she said.

“I think a lot of times there are some people who need everything,” Filgo said. “But there are some people who are living paycheck to paycheck and they just run out, and they need that just one extra package to get them through to the next paycheck.”

Filgo said once the group can raise enough money, she would like to start bulk-purchasing diapers in the sizes needed most at cheaper wholesale prices than an individual is likely to get.

Rent on the storage unit is covered until April, then will start coming out of her pocket.

“This is a labor of love. I want to be able to get it up and running,” Filgo said. “I’m committed to it, so if it comes out of my pocket, it comes out of my pocket.”

The group has a low overhead at this point and no personnel cost. All money raised covers storage and the plastic wrap used to package the diapers, she said.

“If you can count to 25, you can come help,” she said.

Eight-year-old Aubry Guy joined her 11-year-old sister, Ainsley, and their mother, Misty Guy, on Friday to help package diapers for donations.

“Sometimes families don’t have enough money to buy their own,” Aubry said. “It’s a really good opportunity to help out our community.”

Misty Guy said she has a 19-month-old child and understands how essential diapers are.

“For over a year, I had two in diapers. We both work. We have a solid middle-class lifestyle and it stressed our lifestyle,” she said. “I was just, like, this is crazy.”

Guy said often when people go to purchase diapers for the diaper bank, they think of babies and buy the smallest size. That means the larger sizes are needed most, she said.

14 percent

Low-income parents with infants and toddlers spend 14 percent of their income on diapers, leaving less for rent, food or utilities, according to a recent report released by the White House.

Nearly 1 in 3 low-income families report they lack the diapers they need, causing some caregivers to stretch the time between diaper changes to make resources last.

Last year, the White House challenged the private sector to launch efforts to help struggling families.

According to a press release with the White House report, since the call to action, the JetCares Community Diaper Program has donated 5 million diapers to nonprofit groups using a model that stretches funding further; Huggies has donated 48 million diapers and wipes and developed a new program to provide bulk shipments to National Diaper Bank Network locations at competitive prices; Pampers donated 19 million diapers and 19 million baby wipes, building on an existing partnership with Feeding America; Baby2Baby is on track to set an organization record of 5 million diapers donated; and The Honest Co. has given 3.3 million diapers.

Though progress is encouraging, there’s still more to do, and White House staff are encouraging communities to host their own diaper drives and share their stories on social media with #DiaperGap.

Filgo said she relies on information from the National Diaper Bank Network for ideas and inspiration.

She said the local group is always seeking volunteers, diaper donations or monetary donations. They also encourage groups to host diaper drives on their own.

There are two permanent drop-off locations for diapers: My Little Play Place in the Bosque Square Shopping Center; and at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Drop-offs also can be arranged at the warehouse by emailing wacodiaperbank@gmail.com.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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