RICHMOND, Va. -- The folks at Little Hands Virginia have a reputation for a reason — at the Forest Hill Avenue Target at least.
"When she’d go over to Target they’d literally say, ‘Oh, the diaper person is here!’” said Taylor Keeney, the founder of Little Hands, about her other full-time employee.
Little Hands provides tens of thousands of diapers to local families in need through over 70 partner organizations, and Keeney said the need has continued to grow.
"Each month we distribute about 30,000 out our door to families in the community, so it serves about 500 to 1,000 children each month," Keeney said.
“Nationally, 1 in 2 families experience diaper need; that’s up from 1 in 3 families before the pandemic. In the City of Richmond alone, 40% of children live below the poverty threshold, so the numbers here locally match what we’re seeing with diaper needs. So when you couple that with the number of diapers going out our door each month, the need is pretty high here locally.”
Unlike baby food or formula, Keeney said there isn't a federal or state program that helps offset the stick price of diapers at stores for low-income families. Many times, this results in difficult decisions for families who might have to stretch their existing diaper supply by reusing them or waiting too long to change a baby.
"You can use your food stamps to buy diapers, but that means less money for food. Diapers cost about $40 a month for a family, so when looking at that compared to how much federal assistance you’ve received through another program, that’s a huge dent in the budget," Keeney said. "When you couple inflation with the increased cost of living and other issues we’re just all experiencing, diapers are creating a greater squeeze on families in that diaper phase of life.”
"There’s a snowball effect when a family can’t afford diapers. There’s also health issues that come from that and long-term development issues that can develop within a child," Keeney said.
A large mound of diaper boxes and packages currently sits inside Little Hand's newly expanded facility off Forest Hill Avenue, a sizable amount of the diapers collected during a week-long drive that began last week. It's an impressive sight but will likely go quickly.
Little Hands has set a goal of collecting 200,000 diapers in the coming days and weeks. A total that would meet their goal through the end of the year.
"Everybody’s kind of come together, which is really cool, and people are learning about this issue and realizing it’s a huge issue in our community, and finding that just one little pack of diapers can make a huge difference for a number of families in our community," Keeney said.
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