As volunteer Mimi Meeker put it, the scene was like a corn maze made from diapers.
She and another half-dozen or so volunteers navigated seven-foot-tall stacks of the disposable baby garments Wednesday morning, moving them from their tight storage space in Federal Way to their new homes: nearly two dozen local and regional nonprofit organizations.
The March of Diapers Drive, hosted annually by local nonprofit Do The Right Thing, distributes baby and adult hygiene products to groups like FUSION, the Multi-Service Center, the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, El Centro de la Raza, St. Vincent de Paul Tacoma and several food banks.
Those nonprofits swooped by Wednesday and Thursday to take home hundreds of thousands of diapers and wipes for families in need. The volunteers moved like a well-oiled machine. In about 10 minutes Wednesday morning, a U-Haul truck for Care Net of Puget Sound was loaded with 18,100 diapers and 7,092 wipes and ready to roll out.
Michael Sandberg, the Pierce County church relations director Care Net of Puget Sound, said the diaper drive is a big yearly help for the organization.
With six centers across the Puget Sound that each hand out free diapers to their thousands of yearly clients, Care Net offers pregnancy and family services across King and Pierce counties.
“These are a badly-needed resource for our clients, who often come in and really don’t have anything,” Sandberg said. “I just appreciate what March of Diapers does.”
The diaper donation is reaching its yearly finish line. It spent March collecting diapers from businesses and donations from the public.
Do The Right Thing won’t have a final count until April 15, but nonprofit president and Diaper Drive organizer Cheryl Hurst said they collected more than 300,000 diapers this year. The drive collected 11,891 diapers and 3,492 wipes in just four hours at an event in March at the Twin Lakes Fred Meyer.
This is the ninth year of the March of Diapers, and Hurst said next year will be her last. It’s a massive amount of work to put on, she said, and she needs a successor to take the reins if the program is to continue.
“It’s a great thing, but it’s so physically, mentally and emotionally hard,” Hurst said, “and for years, financially.”
Looking ahead, what the region really needs is a diaper bank, Hurst said. Like food banks, diaper banks use bulk pricing and donations to obtain an essential commodity — diapers — and distribute them to families in need.
She has the basics of the idea sketched out. With the right space, and a good team, they could cover Federal Way, Edgewood, Auburn, Milton, Kent, Des Moines, Algona and Pacific, Hurst said.
Until then, volunteers like Mimi Meeker and Cindy Leano help make the annual diaper drive a reality.
As someone who grew up with a single mom, Leano, a first-year college student, connected with Hurst’s vision for helping other mothers in the area and wanted to help out.
“I love that she’s trying to help our organizations just to disperse diapers,” Leano said.
Seeing the scale of the diapers collected is “awesome, and it’s overwhelming, and it gives you a really good perspective on where the need is … in the community,” Meeker said. “I hadn’t bought diapers for probably 20 years. Going in and seeing that if you have two or three kids (in different sizes), that can be $100 right out of pocket. And if you’re already trying to raise children, feed your family, work a job or two, or three, that’s overwhelming.”
That’s why, Meeker said, she’s excited about Hurst’s idea to start a diaper bank for the area.
“It’s common sense, and it benefits the community, and there’s clearly a need,” she said. “I think it could be a ripple effect.”
To learn more about the nonprofit, visit www.dotherightthingnonprofit.org.