WILLMAR — According to the National Diaper Bank Network, one in three families in the United States struggle to afford an adequate supply of diapers for their children. In 2020, the two NDBN member diaper banks in Minnesota provided more than 770,000 diapers to families.
With such a need both nationally and within Minnesota, it probably shouldn't be a great surprise that when a Facebook post popped up about a diaper drive in Willmar, people got excited. When the post turned out to be a ruse, the excitement turned into not only disappointment but a call to action for a small group of people in town.
"And I said maybe we should do our own diaper drive," said Nathalie Johnson. "I had lots of messages from women, saying 'Hey, that's great, I'll help you.'"
From those first messages, Little Bums of Willmar was born, with Johnson acting as the community liaison. The group is planning a community diaper drive from 9 to 11 a.m. April 9 in the parking lot of Assembly of God Church in Willmar, where anyone in need of diapers can drive up and pick some up, as supplies last. The goal is to provide a week's worth of diapers to each family.
"Hopefully we'll have plenty of diapers," said Sarah Miller, volunteer organizer for Little Bums. Also helping out is Amelia Amor, as the group's social media manager.
AG Church quickly came on board when the group was looking for a home and a place to store the boxes and boxes of diapers they hoped to collect and purchase. Ben Markwardt, connections pastor at the church, reached out to Johnson, a member of the congregation, wanting to see how the church could be involved.
"That fits with what we like to do here. Pastor Keith (Kerstetter, lead pastor) always says we are not here to pastor the church, we are here to pastor the community," Markwardt said. "This is a community thing, I don't even have to ask Pastor Keith if he would be for something like this."
Since early March the group has been gathering donations, both in diapers and cash. Donations can be dropped off at Teresa Holwerda State Farm Insurance; Bargains and Blessings Thrift Store; Willmar Public Library; United Way of West Central Minnesota; Willmar Community Center; and Healthy Fusion. Monetary donations can be dropped off at the donation sites, online on the group's website at littlebumsofwillmar.org or mailed to the church. Checks should have Little Bums or diaper drive written in the memo line. Markwardt said all donations will be used to purchase diapers and wipes.
"We've bought $1,000 worth of diapers and wipes," and hope to buy more, Markwardt said.
For those wanting to donate diapers and wipes, the group is looking for a variety of sizes. Families who come to the diaper drive will be allowed to get up to two different sizes if needed. There are also volunteer opportunities the day of the drive. More information can be found on the website.
"Anyone can give in anyway they feel comfortable with," Miller said.
When the group first started out, they had no idea what to expect. And, honestly, they still don't, especially when it comes to predicting to how many people will end up showing up April 9.
"This has all been faith-driven," Johnson said.
There has been some talk about turning this into an annual event, depending on the response. Regardless of any future plans, organizers have been moved by how people are stepping up to help. They are looking forward to the drive, when all the hard work will end with diapers and wipes in the hands of those who need them.
"There is nothing in it for us beyond the reward of filling a need in the community," Johnson said, "feeling pride that there will be babies in clean diapers out there."