hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

October 17, 2013

Group helps low-income families by providing diapers

By Mike LaBella
Staff Writer

---- — Parents of newborns and infants know all too well the cost of buying diapers for their babies.

So does a local organization that is lending a helping hand by collecting diapers for families in need.

Recently, the Breakfast Exchange Club of Greater Haverhill, its president-elect Celeste Begley and Treasurer Pam Perron helped collect a dozen packs of diapers for the Anchor of Hope Diaper Bank. The Haverhill-based organization provides diapers to partnering agencies that in turn distribute them to low income families they work with.

The Breakfast Exchange Club, which meets twice a month at the Haverhill Crossings housing complex, has supported the diaper drive for the past two years.The initiative is in line with the National Exchange Club’s project, which is the prevention of child abuse.

Claire Hailson of Haverhill founded Anchor of Hope Diaper Bank about a year ago, after learning about diaper needs through social workers at her job. She said a lack of diapers in families that are low income and living in conditions of poverty can lead to children’s health being affected due to rashes and urinary tract infections when they are left for long periods of time in wet and soiled diapers.

Fussy babies cause stress, anxiety and depression to their parents and caregivers, she said.

“Since diapers are a prerequisite for most day care enrollment, children cannot be enrolled with them,” she said. “And without child care, this means the mother can’t work.”

Hailson works full time in the local administrative offices of Thom Pentucket Area Early Intervention, an organization that serves children up to to age 3 who may have a developmental delay or may be at risk of having a delay.

“I learned that families cannot afford diapers and will ration one to two diapers a day to their children,” Hailson said, noting that disposable diapers for one child cost an average of $100 a month.

She said that according to a study done at Yale University, low-income mothers who cannot afford diapers are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety. Yale researchers published their findings in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The study found that three in 10 poor mothers reported they could not afford an adequate supply of diapers.

“Many people ask about cloth and for many that is an option I fully support,” Hailson said. “However, when doing my research and talking to the professionals in many of the agencies that serve children, disposable was the need. Whether families use disposable or cloth does not matter to me, as long as the babies are clean, dry and healthy, which is the motto of the nonprofit National Diaper Bank Network.”

Although Hailson supports both types of diapering, she said that for many low-income parents, cloth is often not an option as they may not have a washing machine or transportation to a laundromat.

Last December, students at Sacred Hearts School held a drive and collected over 6,000 diapers for Hailson’s organization.

She said other organizations, including various local daycare centers have held diaper drives as well.

Hailson said the Saint Vincent de Paul Society of All Saints Conference in Haverhill is her fiscal sponsor, which allows the Anchor of Hope Diaper Bank to collect donations, while her organization’s nonprofit 501c3 status is pending with the IRS.

“Through our partner agencies, we give out about 5,000 to 6,000 diapers a month to families in need,” Hailson said. “Our organization is a strictly volunteer organization and is dependent upon donations of diapers and dollars.”

Throughout November, the Children’s Room at the public library will collect diaper donations for the Anchor of Hope Diaper Drive. People can drop off packages of new diapers, particularly in sizes 4, 5 and 6.

Anchor of Hope Diaper Bank will hold its second annual pancake breakfast fundraiser on Oct. 19 from 8 to 11 a.m. at Riverside Memorial Church, 278 Groveland St. The meal will include pancakes, bacon, coffee, tea, milk, juice and a toppings bar. Tickets are $5 in advance and $6 at the door. Admission is free to children ages 2 and under. Ticket can be reserved by calling 978-372-0335.

Visit online at www.aohdiaperbank.org.