By Jade Shojaee
Help a Mother Out (HAMO) has been distributing diapers to families in need since 2009 when an episode of Oprah inspired Lisa Truong and her co-founder Rachel Fudge to find a way to help lower middle class families with their diaper expenses. After seeing media reports of families struggling to stay afloat during the recession, Lisa started reaching out to social service agencies who informed her that diapers are their number one need, due to a very high demand and a very low donation supply.
Fudge and Truong launched their efforts on Mother’s Day 2009 with a donation drive to collect diapers for local agencies. They collected more than 15,000 diapers. Since then, Help a Mother Out has provided over 3 million diapers to families in need. Truong said that her goal is to distribute at least 2 million diapers a year.
HAMO sends diapers to family service organizations in the Alameda and Contra Costa Counties; the San Francisco County; the San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties; and in Southern California. SF California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) families are then able to pick up diapers during designated distribution times.
The average cost of keeping a baby in clean diapers is something like $936 per child each year. For some families living paycheck to paycheck, this can be the difference between swimming and sinking. To make matters worse, many subsidized child care programs require that parents provide diapers for their children in order to attend and most public assistance programs do not provide diapers, which does not leave many options for the single mother who must juggle work and motherhood.
A recent study in the Pediatrics Journal found that lack of sufficient diaper supply drives one in twelve low income mothers to leave babies in their dirty diapers, despite the risk of skin or urinary tract infection.
“People well below the poverty line are eligible to receive monetary benefits,” said Nora Nicholson, program manager at HAMO. And that includes help keeping their babies in clean diapers. Nicholson is the mother of two, and has been with the organization since 2014. She initially took the position after being struck by the desire to “work for the forces of good,” as she put it.
HAMO began as an SF nonprofit but their efforts are starting to make headway in the West Contra Costa County regions. Brighter Beginnings, an East Bay nonprofit that works as a community partner with HAMO, provides several of the pickup points at which CalWORKS families can get their diapers.“Once picked up we distribute the diapers amongst our three locations: Oakland, Richmond and Antioch,” said Lucy Rios, the Development & Executive Associate with Brighter Beginnings.
“HAMO has definitely become an integral part of our programs. Having access to HAMO helps us use the diapers as incentives for families to engage in our programs, as well as relieve a stress in their everyday lives,” said Rios.
Suzanna Mannion, West Contra Costa County resident, new mother and local photographer, sympathized with the cause and recently organized an independent photo shoot fundraiser out of her studio, Suzanna Mannion Photography; and donated a percentage of her creative fees to HAMO.
“I suggested to my husband that we forego participating in the surge of gift giving to family members and instead donate to a few Contra Costa County non-profits,” said Mannion who discovered HAMO the good old fashioned way: Google. “At the time, I was pregnant and had a hard time envisioning what life would be like if I could not afford diapers and wipes once my baby arrived.”
To find out how you can ‘help a mother out’ visit HAMO’s donation page at http://www.helpamotherout.org/donate/