Meet long-time diaper bank supporter and volunteer leader extraordinaire, Erin McCormally Lourie, her husband Owen, son Martin, and her amazing parents, Tim & Judy!
How did you each first hear about GDCDB?
Erin: Shortly after my 4.5-year-old was born, I read about the diaper bank on a local parenting list serve. Soon I realized that there were three ambassadors within easy walking distance of my house. We donated my son’s outgrown diapers and started making a financial contribution each year on his birthday.
Timothy: Judy and I first heard about GDCDB when Erin signed up to be an ambassador.
What motivated you to get involved in this work?
Erin: When I first found out about the diaper bank, I had a newborn and lived near so many other ambassadors that I wasn’t very involved, even though I thought the work was incredibly compelling. We moved about 18 months ago and one of the first things I did after we were sort-of-settled was to hop on the website and see if there were ambassadors in our new neighborhood. They’re weren’t (yay!), so I emailed Lisa right away to sign up. Then we attended a family volunteering session in the warehouse and wanted to be more involved with those too.
Timothy: Erin may have told us about the diaper bank first, but what really inspired us to get involved is my grandson. He loves working in the warehouse, and he will proudly tell you why it’s important to help babies get diapers. I work for KPMG, and we have a very generous corporate giving program: I wanted to get them involved. And quite reasonably, they said “show us you’re involved first.” So Judy and I became ambassadors and have come to work in the warehouse a few times. Now KPMG is getting ready for our first drive.
What do you think it means (or will mean) to Martin (Erin’s son) to have his parents and grandparents involved in this work?
Martin: I like getting my friends involved in the Greater DC Diaper Bank, and I like going to the warehouse because they have great toys. Once we finish bundling the diapers we put them in stacks and the diaper bank gets them to people who can’t afford them. It’s kind of like how there’s a toy drive at school, so moms and dads who can’t afford toys can give them to their kiddos.
Owen: I think it’s a really approachable way to teach empathy, and it gives him a way to help others. Kids naturally want to help others, and I think it’s important to nurture that.
Growing up did you each see volunteering and donating in your own families?
Timothy: I certainly saw a lot of donating, and I guess I did get involved with Big Brothers (there weren’t Big Sisters back then) and delivering holiday gift baskets. And then we volunteered at our church, organizing coffee and donuts after mass and working at the parish soup kitchen.
Judy: My mother was the queen of volunteering. At one point whenever she showed up at a neighbor’s house, they would say “let me get my checkbook” because they could just assume that she was there collecting for a cause.
What’s your favorite part about volunteering?
Timothy: I like that you can choose-your-own-adventure with the Greater DC Diaper Bank. There are so many different ways you can be involved and they make it really easy to get involved. You can do everything from volunteering in the warehouse, to becoming an ambassador and collecting donations, to writing a check.
Martin: Bundling diapers!
Erin: I think the work the GDCDB does is really important work, and I’m so happy to feel like I get to do a little bit of that work. But what I really love most, as a warehouse leader, is that I get to teach other people about the work. Some people have been there before and are committed to the cause and want to get more involved, but we also get a lot of volunteers who have never been here before. They don’t understand the scale of need, or how effective GDCDB is at meeting those needs.
What do you wish more people knew about GDCDB? About this need?
Judy: The fact that it exists!
Timothy: The thing I find really neat is that diapers are a gateway item—they ask for something for their kids, but they’re able to get other services that amplify the impact of 25 diapers a month. It’s such a smart model to increase the effectiveness.
What’s the strangest reaction you’ve gotten when you’ve told someone about the work you do with GDCDB?
Timothy: A lot of people’s first reaction is “what?” And then they make a joke. If you don’t find yourself strapped for funds, you just don’t think about the need, but I do find it resonates with people as soon as you start explaining.
Erin: One time I tried to explain the diaper bank without comparing it to a food bank, and I learned that that is a really important and easy-to-understand metaphor. I tried to explain our work a couple of different ways and it just never clicked. They thought it was a diaper co-op. It made me realize that “it’s kind of like a food bank, but for diapers” is a crystal-clear description. And as you said, once they understand that the need is there, it’s very easy to understand.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Erin and family recently welcomed the newest diaper banker to the family- Welcome to Diapers, baby Colin!
How long did it take you to decide on your best daily makeup look? How long did it take you to find a hairstylist that you like? (Let me know, because I’m still looking for one!) How long did it take you to figure out what types of period products are best for you? Once you’ve got a system in place that works for you, you would want to change it.
There are just about as many types of products are there are types of periods. For some, menstrual cups are an amazing option, and we get asked a lot about whether The Monthly accepts these as a donation. We were surprised by how many of our supporters wanted to donate menstrual cups. If you’re scratching your head right now and saying “menstrual cup?” you’re not alone. For a quick primer of menstrual cups and other period products you might not know about take a click here, but the gist is that it’s a reusable, flexible cup that’s placed internally as an alternative to pads or tampons. Right now, we find that our recipients prefer pads, and to a lesser extent tampons, and that there just isn’t a demand for menstrual cups.
We love that people want to donate these items – and we love their passion for the product! So why do we think that don’t the women and girls we serve don’t want to use menstrual cups? Great question! This could be for any number of reasons, including that a woman may not have a reliably safe and private space to clean her cup when she needs. There are so many different brands and styles of cup that the first one (or second or third!) that a person tries may not be right, and there’s a learning curve associated with cup use that not everyone can conquer. Research has shown that it takes at least three months for a cup newbie to figure out how to use it properly, and not everyone has the luxury to deal with three months of leaks and what that means in stained underwear or back-up pads. There’s also some academic research that has found that product preference is tied to age and to certain sociocultural factors. Ensuring that people of all backgrounds have access to their preferred menstrual hygiene products is not only appropriate, but of paramount importance to respecting the dignity and worth of the women and girls we serve.
We try to make sure that everyone can have the products they prefer, so if we start to hear increasing requests for cups, we will be sure to put a call out for them! For now, give us a shout in advance if you’re really set on donating cups. We love that you, our donors, help us get the right kinds of products to people who need them.
Testimony in Support of B21-0696
Feminine Hygiene and Diapers Sales Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2016
Corinne Cannon, Founder and Executive Director, DC Diaper Bank www.dcdiaperbank.org firstname.lastname@example.org
Chairperson Evans and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of the Feminine Hygiene and Diapers Sales Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2016, which would remove sales tax from baby diapers, adult diapers, and tampons.
My name is Corinne Cannon and I am the Founder and Executive Director of DC Diaper Bank. We serve 4,000 families in DC, MD and VA and distribute approximately 150,000 diapers each month. We also provide adult diapers and tampons, other essential hygiene items, and food. To date we have distributed nearly 4 million baby diapers to families in need, along with thousands of adult diapers and several thousand pounds of feminine hygiene products. Our vision is to provide basic necessities that aren’t covered by government programs, such as Food Stamps and WIC.
Today I am happy to be supporting this bill because, as we know, the fortunes of our children are linked closely to those of women.
Some of the poorest households in our city depend upon a female earner – 32% of female-headed households in DC live in poverty. Overall, women in DC make 90 cents for every dollar that their male peers earn, and the wage gap is far greater for women of color.
Like many jurisdictions, we do not tax food or medicine because we recognize these items as necessities. I would strongly concur with Councilmember Bonds and all the co-sponsors that feminine hygiene products are also necessities. Nobody “treats themselves” to a box of tampons. Imposing a tax on these items is, at it’s essence, taxing someone for being female. To add insult to injury, we make less than our male counterparts – but we pay more for our basic needs.
Likewise, providing diapers for your baby is not a choice – though I know too many mothers and fathers who are faced every month with the question of buying food or diapers. Adult diapers and incontinence supplies fall into this same category – they are an absolute necessity for many of our elderly neighbors.
With both diapers and feminine hygiene products, not changing them frequently enough – a widely used strategy to stretch the life of an item you cannot afford – carries health risks. Insufficient diaper changes can cause severe diaper rash, urinary tract infections, and other health conditions. Children in a wet diaper are more likely to cry or be irritable, which adds to the stress of being a parent.
Research conducted through Yale University found a correlation between diaper need and maternal depression. This finding is not unlike the results of an industry study in 2010, which found that the inability to provide diapers adversely affects a mother’s sense of well-being. As you know, maternal depression leads to a host of bad outcomes for mothers and their children – including poor school readiness and involvement with the child welfare system.
Children’s diapers also affect a child and her parents’ ability to fully participate in society. Parents who lack sufficient diapers for their child may be unable to leave their child in child care, and thus unable to work.
Likewise, lack of access to adult diapers – and the fear of leaving their home due to incontinence – keeps many struggling residents away from programs designed to provide other essential services.
We see this with menstruation products as well. Days for Girls, a non-profit that works to increase girls school attendance internationally, now distributes feminine pads in the United States, because even here they’ve found that girls miss class when they have their periods.
I am very proud of our work here in DC to help families parenting in poverty, but the need is far greater than our reach. An adequate supply of diapers costs more than $100 per month for most of our families. Eliminating sales tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products amounts to a 5.75 percent price drop. Children go through an average of 50 diapers a week or 200 diapers a month. Eliminating the sales tax will allow parents to buy 12 more diapers than they would have been able to otherwise or use the money on other essentials. In an industry study of diaper need, researchers learned from mothers that they most often fell about 10 to 13 diapers short per week, so being able to buy 12 additional diapers each month will reduce a family’s average shortfall and help the physical and financial health of families.
Sales tax hits the lowest income families the hardest. Beyond putting more money into the wallets of struggling families, there is a simple question of fairness. We should not tax women for being women. We should not tax parents for keeping their babies healthy and clean. We should not tax the elderly for having a health issue.
Doing away with the sales tax on a few items will not lift families out of poverty in and of itself. But it will provide some small relief. What, how, and who we tax speaks volumes about what we value as a community and a city. Please pass this bill and let us value the health of our babies, the health of our women, and the health and our elderly.
Thank you. I would welcome your questions.
 National Partnership for Women and Families http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/fair-pay/americas-women-and-the-wage-gap.pdf
 National Partnership for Women and Families http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/fair-pay/quantifying-americas-gender-wage-gap.pdf
 See http://www.one.org/us/2016/02/11/why-menstruation-shouldnt-stop-education-period/ and http://www.daysforgirls.org/where-days-for-girls-serves
In our day to day work the families we help are always on our minds. The moms and dads who call in search of diapers, the little ones who receive formula and wipes during early head start home visits, the young moms who get diapers as part of their medical visits. Here are some of the stories and words of the families we help everyday…
“My name is A.W. It has been a blessing to receive diapers for my two younger children. The cost of diapers is very expensive when you’re buying for two. I cried recently on a visit to pickup my diapers as I was surprised with clothes, baby food, wipes and formula….Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you! The diaper program has allowed me to have money to do laundry or purchase additional school supplies for my older kids. Thank you so much for caring about my community because this is a game changer for moms like me and thanks to your donors who give freely to help those who are not as fortunate. I pray a blessing upon you all and your future endeavors as you expand to other communities.” – Little Lights Urban Ministries
The mother of a teenage girl came in to request diapers for her daughter’s newborn baby (she was still in the hospital at the time and couldn’t come in). This mother’s teenage daughter had become pregnant as a result of rape that had occurred in her home country in Central America and had only recently come to the US to reunite with her mother and rest of her family. Faced with the difficult situation of working through the daughter’s trauma (and the mother’s own sadness at seeing her how her daughter has been affected) and dealing with the stress of the daughter’s immigration status, it was a huge relief for them to receive diapers. The teenager’s mother helps her financially of course, but the mother has other children and family members to take care of, so she is thankful that her daughter can receive the support of diapers for her baby without her having to worry. – Northwest Center
One mother was able to start a savings account as a result of getting a break on diapers. – Mary’s Center
Now with flu season here diapers are especially important to my families. When the baby gets sick and has diarrhea what is a low income parent to do? They often go through a packet of diapers in less than a week. The last mother I met with was so thankful to have another packet to replace it with. Thank you DC Diaper Bank, for helping sick babies have clean and dry bottoms. – Aspire Health
One single mother we work with is a first time mother of a four month old. She is working and getting her master’s degree while adjusting to new parenthood. Her baby is dairy sensitive and needs a special combination of formulas. WIC only provides one formula and she needs to buy the other. I was able to find several containers of her particular formula at the DC Diaper Bank pantry. When I brought her the containers she laughed in joy and said, “Thank you so much, now I can buy cereal again!” She had been choosing between food for her or formula for the baby. – Aspire Health
The diapers are extremely useful for our clients. One client commented that she often has to decide if she should spend her money on diapers, or on transportation to take her to her UDC classes. – Healthy Generations @ Children’s Hospital
Our families were SOOO thankful for the diapers they received this month! One mother shared on the first night of diaper distribution that she did not have enough money to get diapers for her 2 year old daughter and buy her 7 year old son a much needed pair of new school shoes and the diapers she received through the diaper bank allowed her to do both. – Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
A single mother with a three month old baby came to Catholic Charities to take the breastfeeding class offered by Sanctuaries for Life. A case worker from the Family Center met with her after seeing that she needed additional support. She is currently experiencing depression and trying to adjust to her new role as a mother. She is obtaining her master’s degree online, is currently not working, has no family in the U.S., and few friends. The father is not in the picture and she is in the process of requesting child support. Currently, she receives only TCA and WIC. After two meetings, we assisted her in applying for Food Stamps and the Child Care Subsidy Program. We also did a referral for counseling, switched car insurance company to save her $48/mo, applied for the HOC waiting list, applied for a lifeline phone, and provided her with diapers from the DC Diaper Bank. The case worker also modeled for her how to speak with her doctor and obtained an appointment for her baby the following day since she was sick and not eating well. She was also provided with emotional support and baby care advice. After her first meeting, she came back to the second appointment saying that she left feeling better about her situation and had more hope than before. She left knowing that she is not alone, has someone to call, and that her situation can improve. – Catholic Charities
A parent leaving our center for a charter Pre-K program said: “I will miss everything about Jubilee JumpStart, especially the diapers.” Her child was no longer using diapers when our partnership began, but she loved seeing other parents receive them. She said she felt like diapers are exactly the kind of extra support families get here. – Jubilee Jumpstart
With the start of the new school year several DASH babies were able to start in new childcare classes, arriving for their first day with a pack of diapers as required! – District Alliance for Safe Housing
One family I gave diapers to this month was a single mother who was recently forced to separate from her husband because of safety issues. She has two children under 3 years old in addition to an older child and has told me how much she appreciates the diaper donations. This mother works part time so that she can give her children enough quality time – something that is greatly needed right now to repair relationships. This month she told me that she feels more confident and is seeing that she can manage on her own. Thank you for helping her put the pieces in place to rebuild. She will return to work full time once the family situation has stabilized. – Aspire Health
“I only receive 9 cans of formula on WIC and I need help to make it to my next check. Thank you for the formula.” – Mary’s Center
“This is the first time anyone has brought over anything for my baby!”- Mary’s Center
“Wow – there are so many reason why I am ambassador. I could go on and on and on. I never leave a Diaper Bank meeting, the warehouse, an event or the Web site without feeling inspired and proud. I have the biggest smile when I come home see a porch full of diapers or when I get to work and you can’t see my desk because it’s buried in diaper donations from a colleague’s son’s first birthday party.”
When I tell the story of the Diaper Bank, inevitably people ask how we collect donations. It’s my favorite question, because it introduces the Ambassador Program. I get to describe a network of 100 families spread across the greater DC region, who make our work possible by accepting donations and sharing our mission with neighbors, friends and coworkers. They are an inspirational community!
All you really need to be an Ambassador is a place to collect diapers and a willingness to chat about diaper need with folks and occasionally bring a trunkload of donations out to the warehouse. Super simple, right? But this community takes the experience of being an Ambassador so much further.
They make it a family affair. “Philanthropy is part of my day everyday. And the Diaper Bank is part of my family. My daughter lights up when she gets to host an event for the Diaper Bank, my son gets really excited when he gets to stack the newly bundled diapers at the warehouse and my heart flutters when I think about what the volunteers and leaders are doing to help the families who need us.”
They make it a mission. A few Ambassadors took this article from last July’s Atlantic and made it a rally cry on their neighborhood list serves, which increased our donations and added more Ambassadors. Thanks to a few emails, we are able to support more families.
They make it personal. “I ambassador because after my first child was born, I had massive complications and absolutely every task became an ordeal. So many friends and family members reached out and did “little things” for me that meant the world to me. When I read your mission statement, I knew I wanted to help out because something “little” like a $10 package of diapers could really mean the world to a struggling mom. Being a parent to a child in diapers is hard enough without worrying about the ability to afford those diapers. So impressed with all you’ve done to make the world a better place!”
They make it meaningful. “As a school psychologist I am well aware of the importance of early secure attachment and how it can impact all aspects of a child’s development. I think using diapers as a “gateway” service to support families in need and get them hooked up with additional services and supports is critical work that can make a huge impact on the long term success of families and children. I am new to this but I look forward to learning more and supporting the mission as much as possible.”
They make it count. “I work full-time, have two kids, volunteer on an international board, coached a girls’ running team, and I NEEDED to do something about this diaper issue. Diapers should not prevent parents from working, from placing their child in daycare. Diapers shouldn’t be reused and shouldn’t be shoplifted. So when there was a FB post about joining DCDB’s Ambassador program, I immediately emailed the person who posted it. OF COURSE I was going to be an Ambassador–how could I not? How could I sit in the comfort of my home, knowing I can provide diapers to my own children when there were parents out there who couldn’t? How could I raise my children to be generous and kind if I couldn’t give up my time to do something so powerful? To me, there was no question about it. It was something I had to do. I love being an Ambassador. It is such a powerful, impactful volunteer role and one I do not take lightly. I know that doing something as simple as collecting diapers in my neighborhood significantly impacts the lives of those in need IN MY OWN COMMUNITY. And there’s simply no reason on earth I could say no. We’re all busy. But that should never be an excuse not to help those in need. Why do I ambassador? Because I can’t NOT ambassador.”
DCDB runs on volunteer power and no volunteers are more committed or more enthusiastic than our Ambassadors. Their energy and effort goes well beyond their front porches, and it really matters- to DCDB, the families we support, and the communities we serve.
Want to be a part of this amazing group of volunteers? Email email@example.com for more information!
Things seem to be moving in hyper speed at DCDB Headquarters. The last five years have zipped by (ok, ok, some months have been a bit more of a slog!), and the last six months have been a true whirlwind. Just to recap, in just the last six months the following has happened:
– We doubled our Warehouse Space
– Brought on NINE new partners
– Were featured on CNN Heroes
– Increased our Volunteer Sessions from 11ish a month to 15ish a month (that’s a technical number)
– Got a donation of 1,000,000 diapers from the National Diaper Bank and Huggies
– Donated our 2 millionth diaper to families in the metro area
WHEW! That’s a lot! There’s a thread that runs through the last six months and all these accomplishments – six months ago we hired our first Program Associate, Lisa Oksala. And we’re pretty darn sure that a good portion of our immense success these last six months is connected to her passion and dedication to this work, her ability to organize anything (no, we mean anything), and her complete inability to let obstacles slow her down. So, in celebration of Lisa’s first six month we queried her about a few things… take a read:
Weirdest donation you’ve encountered:
This is actually a tough one! Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to identify breast pump parts, especially when not accompanied by the actual pump…
Youngest volunteer you’ve held:
I think I got Nora at 2 months. But I’m happy to hold younger! Bring me your babies, that I may sniff at their little baby smelling heads!!! (that just got weird, didn’t it…)
Number of volunteer sessions scheduled:
May through December = 83
Number of firstname.lastname@example.org emails answered:
So I went to search my email and it said “1-50 of many” Even Gmail knows it’s a lot. 🙂 449, by final count..
Number of times you’ve told someone you work for the diaper bank and you’ve seen them try to resist making a poop joke:
Only twice! And only once where they put up no resistance. But I’m looking forward to more!
Can’t wait to see what the one year anniversary holds! Thanks for all you do LISA!