Wrapped in goodness, Nebraska Diaper Bank offers essential service for area parents

Originally published: December 10, 2022

Wrapped in goodness, Nebraska Diaper Bank offers essential service for area parents

Working as the executive director of the Nebraska Diaper Bank is a personal mission for Tegan Reed.

At one point, Reed and her husband had four children under age 7, so they learned first-hand how expensive it is to buy diapers. Lots of diapers.

“I had an understanding of how many were used each day,” Reed said — anywhere from six to 11 or more.

She was more fortunate than many area parents. Family members stepped in to help defray the cost of keeping her babies happy and dry.

“My husband’s grandparents were our personal diaper bank,” she said. “They called to see what we needed and it was on our doorstep. They were inspired by their grandparents — I think that their grandparents did that for them.”

Now all Omaha parents have a similar — yet larger — bank if they’re finding it difficult to afford diapers. The Nebraska Diaper Bank distributed 592,545 diapers to families in 2021 and is poised to provide 1.4 million this year, Reed said.

The bank is one of the newest agencies to receive funding from The World-Herald’s Goodfellows charity. Reed said she contacted United Way of the Midlands about a partnership this year and was thrilled to learn how Goodfellows could help.

Goodfellows was started in the late 18th century by The World-Herald and has been administered by United Way since 2020.

“I remember that phone call,” Reed said of her initial talk with United Way officials. “It was wonderful.”

The Nebraska Diaper Bank has been its own entity for only a couple of years. It grew out of the 2014 LIFEhouse Partnership between Prairie Lane Christian Reformed Church and Westwood Church, which was formed to provide food and diapers for people in surrounding neighborhoods, roughly from 120th Street to 132nd Street around West Center Road.

It started small — parents came to the partnership’s food pantry and diaper distribution center and went home with what they needed.

“In the beginning, I would go to Target and fill a cart and that would be enough for a month,” Reed said.

They quickly learned that they couldn’t adequately serve the community’s needs by direct distribution, she said, so they adopted the diaper bank model established by the National Diaper Bank Network.

Now, the Nebraska Diaper Bank — renamed with its new purpose — buys 85% of its diapers through the national network’s purchasing channel and gets 15% from donors. Even open packages are accepted as long as they are clean, Reed said.

They store the diapers in a warehouse near 91st and F Streets, where volunteers wrap them into packages to be picked up by partner agencies such as the Open Door Mission and Catholic Charities, which distribute them to clients. Semitrailer trucks regularly drop off loads of diapers at the warehouse.

On a recent Thursday, several women, mostly retirees, were busy packaging diapers, quickly bundling them into plastic wrap and adding a Nebraska Diaper Bank card before starting the process again.

“We call them our power packers,” said Carey Oswald, the diaper bank’s support coordinator.

The group functioned like a well-oiled machine. A visitor asked if they were friends.

“On Thursdays we are,” joked volunteer Janelle Deitloff of Omaha.

“Or if we run into each other at Hobby Lobby. Or the zoo,” another said.

In reality, a couple knew each other, but the entire group didn’t meet until they gathered at the diaper bank. Now, they’re talking with Oswald about having brunch some week before they start wrapping.

Colleagues from area businesses sometimes set up private volunteer sessions. It can get boisterous.

“That’s really fun because it gets competitive,” said Vickie Tom, another Thursday volunteer.

Tom and her group meet at the diaper bank two or three Thursdays a month. There are also times when the warehouse is open to anyone who wants to stop by and help.

All told, volunteers donate about 300 hours a month to the nonprofit.

“They are the heart of our organization,” said Reed, who is the bank’s only full-time employee. There are two part-timers besides Oswald: a program manager and a development director.

In addition to agencies in Douglas County, the diaper bank partners with nonprofits in Sarpy and Thurston Counties in Nebraska and Pottawattamie County in Iowa. A complete list of partners is on the Nebraska Diaper Bank‘s website.

Diapers through the bank are available in all sizes, from six all the way down to newborn. Clients get 60 larger diapers or 80 newborn diapers each month, an amount that’s intended to supplement what they purchase at the store or find elsewhere.

Reed said that makes her program extremely compatible with Goodfellows, which, through other agencies, offers struggling area families one-time emergency aid for rent, utilities or other crises.

Goodfellows gave the diaper bank a $15,000 grant this fiscal year.

Reed also said the agencies with which the diaper bank partners typically offer other services such as food pantries or even parenting or financial classes. They’re looking to build up families as well as offering material goods.

“The goal is to lift people out of poverty,” she said.

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