The COVID-19 outbreak has forced people to stay in their homes and non-essential businesses to close, leading to a historic 1,600 percent increase in unemployment in a three-week period, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Some families’ budgets are being stretched to their limits as they struggle to buy the things they need under reduced or completely lost wages, and more are turning to nonprofit charity groups for help, says Barbara Johnson, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit diaper bank Hope Supply Co.
“Demand has spiked almost 300 percent so we’re seeing almost three times as much need out there as normal,” Johnson says. “We are receiving a lot of calls from non-partners and individuals who are just desperate right now.”
Hope Supply Co. provides diapers, baby wipes, clothing, and “anything a child would need to thrive” for families who can’t afford them.
Now that unemployment is on the rise, Hope Supply Co. and other Dallas-Fort Worth diaper banks need more help to meet the increased demands caused by the coronavirus pandemic, especially if the labor statistics don’t improve soon.
“There is a little bit of a supply chain issue nationally just in terms of getting diapers but so far, we’ve been able to fulfill all the needs but we also feel we might be at the beginning of this thing,” Johnson says. “We think it’s going to have very far reaching economic consequences.”
The 30-year-old nonprofit group buys items in bulk at cheaper rates and disperses them to 78 nonprofit groups across North Texas like CASA of Collin County, City House, and the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation. Johnson says their inventory is sufficient for now but purchases have risen as much as 70 percent to help prepare for increased demand. Even that may not be enough to meet the need as more families are affected by the pandemic.
Hope Supply’s warehouse manager manages the inventory level, and whenever people send money, Johnson says they’re buying diapers immediately.
Justin Barringer, the co-founder and executive director of Diapers Etc. charity group of Dallas, says they give out 20,000 diapers to families on the last Saturday of every month. Hope Supply Co. gave them twice the number of donation items, but he anticipates that they’ll still run out of diapers and wipes.
Barringer recently went to watch another drive-thru diaper bank. It was a one-time event, and they were meant to be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “I stayed and watched from 10 – 11 a.m. and they had run out of pretty much everything. If that’s any indication, they probably had to turn away 100 more families and that’s probably on the low end,” he says.
Diapers can be a costly but necessary item for low-income families, Johnson points out.
“For a family in poverty in the U.S., diapers are number three on a family’s budget. It’s rent, food and diapers,” she says. “A family who has one child in diapers pays $80 [for diapers] a month. Two kids in diapers, do the math, that’s $160 a month.”
Johnson and Barringer say the best way to help low-income families with children during these trying times is to make a monetary donation to Hope Supply Co. so they can make cheaper bulk purchases and disperse more items across the region.
“They have the ability to buy diapers in bulk capacity that we don’t and they get them at a significantly cheaper rate,” Barringer says.
Barringer also needs more volunteers to help organize and send items to families. He says most of his regular volunteers are elderly and more vulnerable to the effects of the virus. He invites people to contact him at [email protected] if they are able to help.
Johnson also says time is running out to meet the growing needs caused by the outbreak.
“Right now, [our warehouse manager] says we’re good but if we don’t order more in a week, it’s not going to be good,” she says.