By Mikael Krummel

In early summer 2019, Theresa Baum started noticing social media postings by local mothers desperately seeking donations of children’s diapers. Baum was familiar with the challenges the moms faced, owing to her own recent struggles raising an infant son. She decided to help by buying diapers with her own money and giving them directly to the moms. Then she started researching the dynamics underlying the diaper shortage phenomenon. She discovered that there were no government subsidies covering infant diaper costs. She learned that diapers cost $80 to $100 per month per child. And that there was only one nonprofit organization in Oregon providing diapers for low-income families — in Portland. Baum stepped up her work.

She contacted the National Diaper Bank Network, which helped her lay the groundwork to establish a local nonprofit diaper bank here. Baum had a day job and no background in nonprofit organizing, yet she worked nights to shape her vision. She built an agency board of directors with skills in IT, marketing, media, and community promotions. And she taught herself grant writing. By August 2019, she had secured the required paperwork, adequate funding, and enough diapers to open Lane County Diaper Bank. LCDB has since expanded operations to include partnerships with nearly a dozen social service organizations in the Eugene-Springfield area, Creswell, Cottage Grove, and Veneta whose missions include helping families with young children. And through its own community diaper drives, promotional events, and business alliances, LCDB provides diapers monthly to families registered with the bank.

Baum confesses she’s been shocked by the massive demand for diapers. “The need!” she exclaims. “We opened our site six months ahead of time. Our projections were never that we’d be giving away even 5,000 diapers a month.” LCDB, she reports, has lately been giving away 16,000 diapers per month between its partner organizations and its own registered families.  

“But at the end of the day,” says Baum, “we still need volunteers, community support, funding, and awareness for our programs. We need all that good stuff!”