Birthday parties of 2020 will carry their own mark of memorability, likely with a unique twist to the celebration because of COVID-19. For many families struggling with poverty, birthday parties were never something to take for granted.
At Dakota Diaper Pantry, our Diaper Drop partner in North Dakota, one mother was brought to tears when the group organized a party with cake for her child.
“No mother wants her child to have to celebrate their birthday in a shelter, but sometimes it’s unavoidable,” said Liz Larsen of the Dakota Diaper Pantry. “We set up a small birthday celebration with the other women in the shelter, and when the mom walked in she burst into tears. A cake may seem like a small gesture to some, but she said she was overcome with emotion knowing her child would get to have a birthday cake this year.”
The Dakota Diaper Pantry, a YWCA Minot program, works to eliminate diaper need in Western North Dakota. All veterans and active duty families are automatically approved for diaper program through this organization.
“By bridging the gap for families, we promote dignity and help to empower them to pursue their ambitions,” Liz said.
The pantry serves a very rural area with a unique job market, in some cases individuals have earned 6 figures with only a 9th grade education.
“Truly, this community is being hit harder by COVID than most. We were an oil-dependent community where people with no education had the ability to make $150k+ a year easily,” Liz said. “Now, people who thought they were untouchable are unemployed, and related jobs are also unsure of if/when they’ll bounce back.”
Yet, these jobs were not accessible to everyone. Well-paying jobs are for men who can work 20 days in a row away from home without the burden of childcare.
“We have some of the wildest differences in wealth,” Liz said. “Housing is not affordable and daycares are few and far between. … Stores can sometimes be an hour away from your home, in more rural parts. There are not a ton of resources for people, sadly.
The mother who celebrated her child’s birthday in the shelter was able to leave the emergency shelter; but then, COVID hit and her work hours were cut. Liz said she depends on diapers from the Dakota Diaper Pantry so she can maintain rent payments.
As a Diaper Drop partner, Dakota Diaper Pantry has distributed cloth kits from Jake’s Diapers throughout COVID-19.
“We have had a few families cry because cloth diapers are spendy up front!,” Liz said. “Fixed incomes are so tight since COVID. We are able to spend our limited grant funded budget on disposable products to ensure every type of family is served!