Group holds public giveaway of diapers

Topeka mother-of-four Amanda Evers' take-home pay is less than $1,000 a month, and her young daughter needs diapers.

"We get big boxes, I think 150 in them if me and her dad can manage it, and even then, they're ridiculously expensive," Evers said. "Any help I get, I appreciate."

Fortunately, the Junior League of Topeka (JLT) provided it on Saturday as part of their annual Diaper Giveway at the Central Park Community Center, 1534 S.W. Clay Street.

The 40,000 diapers JLT had on hand to give away on Saturday are part of its Diaper Depot program.

JLT members purchase diapers and collect them from donors all over the community for Diaper Days distribution events.

Saturday's recipients weren't required to prove they are in poverty or pre-qualify. Most just walked in the door, did basic paperwork about their demographic information, and got help.

JLT estimated 100,000 diapers were distributed last year, with an entirely volunteer staff.

"That's incredible," Evers said as she filled out paperwork to get diapers for her 9-month-old, Alyssa Ruiz.

"That's helping a lot of people, and keeping a lot of kids out of situations where they're like, in a dirty diaper for 10 hours because their parents need to stretch (the supply).

Evers' three other children are all well past diaper age, but the giveaway helps her feel relatively secure about her daughter's needs.

She has less fortunate memories from caring for her other children.

"I'm doing OK now," Evers said. "But I've had episodes where I have to get emergency diapers from neighbors just to make it a day or a week."

Ashli Volle, another Topeka mother who came to the event for help with her two daughters, knows how free diapers can make a difference for parents with young children.

"There's a huge waiting list for any regular giveaway," Volle said. "We are forced to potty train them at the earliest age we can."

Amanda Vogelsberg, JLT vice president of community impact, is like most of the group's volunteers in that she has children of her own and a full-time day job. She is an attorney.

Along with Jennifer Sourk, JLT president, and Kara Schuetz, JLT Diaper Days chairwoman, Vogelsberg knows the difficulties new parents can face.

"Disposable diapers eat up as much as six percent of an impoverished family's income," Vogelsberg said. "No government program provides assistance. You can't, for example, use WIC (Women, Infants and Children) assistance money on diapers.

"Some states are passing legislation on this to help needy families ... it would be a great thing to see here."

Sourk said the Diaper Depot program grew well beyond expectations since its founding in 2013.

"We had 20,000 diapers collected in the first year, and we felt that was pretty good," Sourk said. "Now we're at 100,000.

"This issue wasn't really talked about in our community before. Now it is known about on the donor side and the recipient side in our town."

Tawny Stottlemire, executive director of Community Action, Inc., volunteered to help at the giveaway as a "thanks" for JLT's work with Community Action on diaper distribution and other public-aid projects.

"They've been so good to us over the past year, and their volunteers are so dedicated," Stottlemire said. "Whenever I go to an event with a JLT volunteer, they have a diaper-collection box with them.

"It makes such a difference. Think about it. If a pack of 50 diapers costs $20-$30, and I give it to you for free, that's a tank of gas, or more food for your kids. It may be the difference between paying the power or water bill, or not."

Opened or unopened diaper packages may be donated at USD 501 Parents as Teachers, 2331 S.W. Topeka Blvd.; at the office of Brandon Aldrige, State Farm, 2841 S.E. Croco Rd., Suite 500; and at Kirk & Cobb Realtors, 2810 S.W. Gage Blvd.

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