Here’s a Simple Way to Help a Mom

You know that rule of holiday shopping: One for you, one for me? Well, when it comes to diaper shopping this season, flip that rule around: One for me, one for you.

Moms in South Carolina, Arizona, San Francisco and in the Chicago area are discovering this rule–and diaper banks, where disposable diapers are donated for people who cannot afford them.

In Illinois, the Rev. Jim Swarthout of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in McHenry opened the state’s first diaper bank six months ago after meeting a mother of a 2-year-old who was rationing diaper use to two a day.

Moved by her situation, Swarthout began the bank, putting his church at the core, collecting and storing diapers. They’ve collected 50,000 to 60,000 diapers already, he said. And the church has partnered with about 10 social service agencies that are handling the distribution, which started in November.

“Diapers bridge all the barriers that we put between ourselves,” Father Jim says. He’s seen people from a range of faiths, organizations, genders and geographies come together to contribute to the bank. “Everybody understands the need. I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been a priest for 23 years.”

On the North Shore, there also are several organizations that will accept diaper donations and get them to those who need them (see right).

The reason why the cost of disposable diapers (about $130 a month for infants) hits low-income families so hard is that they are not covered under the Women, Infant and Children program. And, yes, cloth diapers could be a more affordable alternative. But daycare centers don’t accept them.

That’s why area moms such as Caitlin Giles–the blogger behind A Hen and Two/Three Chicks ( and Wee Windy City (–are stepping up to make “deposits.”

Caitlin recently began campaigning for diaper donations on her blog after she read about Swarthout’s encounter with the mom of the 2-year-old.

“She would clean the diapers out as best she could and then reuse them. I couldn’t stop thinking about this situation–both for the child who must be really uncomfortable and for the mother who must feel such sadness and despair,” Caitlin, mom of a 5-year-old, 3-year-old and 10-month-old, told us in an e-mail interview.

So Caitlin asked her readers to pick up an extra package of diapers for a diaper bank–or any social service organization that collects them–whenever they buy diapers for their own use.

“Families could even make this part of their holiday charity efforts,” wrote Caitlin, a “one-time lawyer” who lives in the Wicker Park neighborhood.

“I’ve decided to make a commitment to do this myself,” she wrote on Wee Windy City. I am at the store stocking up on these items anyway so it is no trouble to put an extra package in my cart. And sure, it’s just diapers. But this small gesture might mean a great deal to another Chicago-area family.”