GREEN BAY — A woman decides to choose life and has her baby. Then what?
Her baby needs diapers, at the cost of $30 to $40 for a month’s supply, and the rent is due.
“We are pro-life, so we need to be helping the women after they make life-affirming decisions,” said Celia McKee, Dignity of Human Life coordinator for the Diocese of Green Bay. “So we will support them with their basic needs, such as diapers. We know there are a lot of people in poverty or close to poverty that need our help. If they can’t afford the basic things, we aren’t doing our calling to live the corporal works of mercy.”
With that aim in mind, Catholic Charities and the Living Justice Department of the diocese are working together on their first, diocesan-wide diaper drive. It began on Aug. 24 and runs through Oct. 4, Respect Life Sunday. People can drop off diapers at Catholic Charities locations in Green Bay and Appleton, as well as at several crisis pregnancy centers across northeast Wisconsin. Additionally, several parishes are holding diaper drives, including Stella Maris in northern Door County and St. Edward in Mackville.
Tara Degrave, Child and Family Services Manager for Catholic Charities and McKee developed the idea for the drive after consulting with area pregnancy centers and hearing the needs of Catholic Charities clients.
“The idea,” Degrave said, “was to alleviate some of the financial burdens, to free up some of the funds (our clients) would spend on diapers, so they can spend that on their rent or other baby supplies that isn’t covered by any other community program. If you’re $50 short on your rent and you spend $50 on diapers and we offer a pack of diapers to you so you can get to your next paycheck, it’s a good day.”
Degrave noted that babies, on average, use seven to 10 diapers a day, and she has found that, sometimes, to make ends meet, mothers “stretch out a diaper as long as they possibly can.”
Ann Schibler of the A&A Alexandrina Center in Green Bay has seen young mothers “come in and get their monthly allotment of diapers and (still need to) keep their older child in one diaper all day.”
The center used to give out 30,000 diapers a year, Schibler said, but “had to cut back on handing them out. It just drained our resources. This diaper drive is so essential for us. It keeps these moms coming back. We do have clients who have three or four children.”
Of most need are diapers for toddlers, sizes 3-6. Smaller diapers, being a little less expensive seem to be donated to pregnancy centers more often, but the larger sizes run out fast. Catholic Charities clients are given diapers based on need and, at some crisis centers, women are able to earn “baby bucks” for attending classes. The “baby bucks” can be used on diapers or other needs like clothes.
“Half of my work is to people and their basic needs,” said Eric Weydt, Catholic Social Justice coordinator for the diocese. “For young moms and single parents, diapers are a big expense. It’s something very tangible for people to see and give.”
Schibler said that just offering a pack of diapers can sometimes make a difference for a woman contemplating abortion. “You can actually see the hope in their eyes,” she said, “when you tell them you are going to help them with diapers.”
Weydt sees such a small thing as giving a pack diapers as living the Gospel message: “We have to support those who chose life. That’s our obligation as Catholics. We’re all looked at as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s our responsibility to support those who choose life, and we can do that with something as basic as diapers.”
Diapers may be dropped off at Catholic Charities offices in Appleton and Green Bay and at Mother and Unborn Baby Care in Appleton, the Waupaca Pregnancy Information Center, the A&A Alexandrina Center in Green Bay, Bay Area Pregnancy Services in Marinette, Bella Medical Clinic in Oshkosh, Hope Life Center in Antigo and The Crossing of Manitowoc County. For more information, contact the diocese — toll-free — at 877-500-3580.