Help Veteran Families With Basic Needs Support

by Jake's Diapers, Inc.
Help Veteran Families With Basic Needs Support
Help Veteran Families With Basic Needs Support
Help Veteran Families With Basic Needs Support
Help Veteran Families With Basic Needs Support

Jake’s and Kingdom Come continue their effort to reach Northeastern WI residents in need in Oconto County, serving at least 150 households each month.

They know the weight of hardship, yet it hasn’t stopped them in their tracks.

Many who visit Kingdom Come arrive with a smile despite the change to wait in their cars during the pandemic, and miss out on that extra bit of socializing while getting basic needs items they rely on from the food pantry of Oconto County, said Belinda Chou of the pantry.

“These older folks have worked hard through their lives,” she said. “Many have not had the best breaks in life, but they are still putting one foot in front of the other and living. They are trying to make the best of what they have living as good as they can make it. They are grateful all the time. They say thank you, even when they are struggling. They have optimism and hope that things will get better. They are resilient.”

October marked Kingdom Come’s 17th month in partnership with Jake’s. The pantry generally serves between 150-175 households each month, with products estimated at $4000 to $5000 retail, and approximately 75% of the products come from Jake’s, Belinda said. The rest are purchased by Kingdom Come or donated.

The pantry receives many hygiene products because of our partnership, including diapers, period products and adult care essentials (A.C.E. incontinence products). During its October “Diaper Day,” it served 82 clients aged 60 and over, from 59 households, in need of essential support from our A.C.E. program.

“The older Kingdom Come Food Pantry clients are on fixed income, some on the bottom of the Social Security scale,” she said. “Some are veterans. They struggle to make ends meet every month. They rely on the generosity of their community members to support them at the pantry with food. They find a way to deal with adversities as they always have – stretching the dollar, penny-pinching, dealing with the here and now. Health issues get in their way. Finding money for self-care items like Poise or adult briefs is a struggle.”

Kingdom Come is the only weekly pantry operating in Oconto County. Through COVID-19, they have focused their efforts on source CARES Act food to support the local need, and have served up to 650 households per week. The pantry is 100% volunteer and grateful for the success it has had meeting community needs.

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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!

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As a regular volunteer at Jake’s Diapers, Niki is often amazed at the amount of resources available to help people in need, with literally hundreds of thousands of products moving in and out of the warehouse each month.

“To be able to spread so many items across to being able to help so many people, if people are struggling or are in need - Jake’s is a major resource for a lot of people and organizations,” she said.

Niki’s brother-in-law is stationed overseas; her family recently sent him a care package, and many of those stationed overseas do not receive packages like he does, he told Niki. 

The family wanted to be able to help, and volunteering at Jake’s Diapers sparked an idea: she could send care packages using supplies from the warehouse.

Niki and her family raised funds to pay for shipping and a sharing fee to access supplies from our warehouse to send supplies to those stationed with her brother in law. The package included items such as: shampoo, conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, deodorant, bar soap and Bombas knee high black socks — the kind that are useful under tall boots.

“It was a very minimal sharing fee for the amount that we had gotten, probably a quarter of the price,” Niki said of the cost of supplies from Jake’s Diapers Hope Factory.

The group was able to send 8 large priority boxes filled with supplies for her brother in law to share with his unit, with special support from Kevin Schommer of Rural Mutual Insurance in Wrightstown supporting shipping costs.

Niki’s brother in law is stationed in the Middle East and right now is scheduled to be there until February.

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As we continue with daily life while abiding by best practices to avoid COVID-19 spread, we’re all experiencing major shifts in communication. Instead of gatherings with family and friends, many have turned to technology to stay safe and connected.

This shift has also created a lot of change for many of our nonprofit partners who serve the basic needs of low income populations. 

For example, at the Winnebago County Health Department Public Health Supervisor Alana Erickson said all communications have shifted virtually, and WIC participants are being referred to 2-1-1 resources if in need of items not provided via those benefits. 

In Oconto County, our partners at Kingdom Come say drive-thru operations add a layer of difficulty to providing supplies that families need. For example, Belinda of Kingdom Come said she regularly spoke with families about diaper need when they would come in to pick up their supplies – something that isn’t happening right now.

“The biggest struggle is not hearing from our clients. Because we are serving more families, and the drive-thru style of food distribution does not lend itself to time to talk, we were not able to discuss particular client needs or changes to this first diaper distribution. (Typically) clients would talk to me about size changes or problem-solving based on our available products,” she said. “That is disrupted now, and will be increasingly disrupted with each month we continue to need to limit and control spacial contact with our clients.”

Belinda said hopes to be able to make assumptions about diaper size needs based on what she knows about the child, but at the end of the day right now is about just adapting to get by and make things work.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionally impacting children and families who lack access to clean diapers and other basic necessities. Hoarding, loss of jobs and shelter in place orders have forced more families to turn to nonprofit diaper banks, depleting available supplies.

Our Increased Distribution Exemplifies this Overwhelming Impact

In February, our program distributed 23,621 diapers to 472 children and families. This is a pretty normal month.

In March, we delivered 46,378 diapers to 1,009 children and families.

We expect this number to continue to grow.

Parents strolling the baby aisle across the U.S. are running into limited options and even empty shelves as the world continues its fight against COVID-19. Thank you for your continued support in providing essential items to families in need, especially at these most crucial times.

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Organization Information

Jake's Diapers, Inc.

Location: Little Chute, WI - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @jakesdiapers
Project Leader:
Stephanie Bowers
Jake's Diapers, Inc.
Little Chute, WI United States
$42,478 raised of $50,000 goal
 
814 donations
$7,522 to go
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