Annual "Stuff the Baby Bus with Diapers" set for Sunday, July 31
On July 31, the West Seattle Farmers' Market may be the only place in town you can get a 'poopsicle,' toss a diaper, and help a needy child all in the same place.
Local charitable nonprofit group, Westside Baby, will hold its fifth annual Stuff the Baby Bus With Diapers fund-raising campaign at the market this year. The organization hopes to raise twice the amount of diapers brought in by last year's event, said Lisa Perry, resource coordinator.
"We are asking everyone we know to contribute a pack of diapers," said Perry. "Sizes 4 and 5 are most desirable."
As last year, the yellow school bus will claim its usual spot on the west edge of the market on Sunday, July 31.Visitors are encouraged to bring diapers to donate or even offer cash donations that will go toward stocking the shelves of Westside Baby with diapers. The donations will go to needy families throughout the community and the city.
"We will have the bus open for future drivers, or stuffers, to practice opening and closing the door with the nifty lever," said Perry. "Also we'll have a speedy diaper- change contest, dads are especially encouraged to enter, and candy for all winners."
Last year the event raised about $3,500 worth of diapers, which is roughly a three-and-a-half-month supply for Westside Baby.
In its five years of operation, the group has provided more than 10,000 children, age 10 and under, with help in the form of clothes, books, blankets, diapers, toys and other baby gear. According to Perry, about $1.8 million worth of goods have been distributed to children since the organization's inception.
The purpose and focus for providing diapers to needy children helps to invoke poverty awareness in a simpler way than just talking about it, said Perry.
"We are the No. 2 state in the nation in terms of hunger," she said." The bigger task is to raise awareness of this problem, it is just as important as filling the needs."
Why diapers? It's a question Perry hears often. The answer is somewhat simple, she said, diapers are expensive and buying them can often be a challenge for families living on minimum wage. Programs such as food stamps and Women, Infants and Children do not cover diapers in their services.
A visit with Perry, and Donna Pierce, executive director of Westside Baby, made it clear that for some people, compassion and a notion of social responsibility can easily override any amount of dollar compensation.
Pierce's vision for her organization grew from replicating other local groups with similar goals, such as Eastside Baby Corner in Issaquah and St. Joseph's Baby Corner downtown.
"They've been serving folks for well over 12 years," said Pierce. "When I became a mom, I couldn't believe how stressed out I was even though I had a nice house, money for adequate food, diapers and clothing. It just drove me crazy to think about teen parents or low-income moms and all the stress they must deal with on top of their children's needs. Westside Baby had to be born."
A former professor of education at Louisiana State University, Pierce previously owned Chickadees, a baby and children's clothing shop, in the Junction for about four years.
"I soon realized that I'd rather give stuff away to people who need it than try to sell fancy gifties to people who can afford luxuries," said Pierce.
Though it may take a certain personality to actually put charitable ideas into action, Perry and Pierce have somehow found a way to juggle their already hectic lives as wives and mothers with the added responsibility of running a busy and thriving nonprofit.
Working part-time with about 80 percent individual donations and roughly 20 percent in grants, the two women labor together year-round with their team of six to eight unpaid staff to fill roughly 75-100 orders per week that come pouring in from the more than 40 organizations partnered with Westside Baby, which includes nearby social services, medical clinics and food banks.
The group works exclusively with these organizations to provide diapers, baby food, and other items, mostly donated by local West Seattle residents and businesses.
But how often a child receives help from Westside Baby really depends on the organization that arranges for the need.
For example, Westside Baby donates diapers, baby food, and formula to the White Center Food Bank every week. One package of diapers is added to each bag of food, but families are only allowed one package of diapers per month, per child.
Because locations for donations are few and have only specific times available, many people have a hard time coordinating drop-offs, said Perry. She hopes to fix this inconvenience and also expand Westside Baby's efforts to include more donation locations, possibly with drop-off bins in front of local stores and businesses in the near future.
The problem this poses for Westside Baby is a need for an already lacking pool of resources, said Perry. With more items, locations and promotions comes the need for more drivers, volunteers to sort and fill orders, and of course money to pay the employees. In order to see Westside Baby grow, the need for volunteers becomes more apparent to both Perry and Pierce.
"In some respects this country couldn't function without volunteers," said Perry, "but it is hard to expect people to give up their time to do these things."
But things are looking promising for Westside Baby's future. Recently the organization received a venture fund grant from United Way of King County to "raise diaper awareness."
"The grant will cover expenses related to building our website, educational materials on how to run diaper drives in businesses, schools and churches--focuses on 'why diapers?', factors that place and keep people in poverty," said Pierce. "By getting more people involved in running diaper drives, we will be able to serve more babies in need."
For volunteer information or to learn how you can run a diaper drive for Westside Baby, call 767-1662.Current drop-off locations for clean used and new clothing, toys, books, baby food and other items are Westside Baby, Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and the first Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. West Seattle Kid's Salon, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and at the Fauntleroy Church and YMCA, Monday- Friday 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rebekah Schilperoort can be reached at 932.0300 or email@example.com