Bloggers (and child) join me at the Los Angeles Mission
Here’s how it happened:
Help a Mother Out was able to give 42,000 Huggies diapers to the Los Angeles Mission’s Anne Douglas Center For Women as part of our collaboration with the Every Little Bottom program. As the messenger of such great news, I was charged with finding a home for this giant – ahem – load. Our current Los Angeles-area partner agencies didn’t have room for so many diapers all at once, we’re talking pallets and pallets and pallets! So I branched out.
I remembered coming across the Los Angeles Mission, where the woman who answered the phone many months ago told me about how the Anne Douglas Center hands out 5 diapers a day to mothers who come to the door at 10:30 AM. That is their daily ration of diapers per child. Five diapers! Can you imagine? The center relies completely on donations. I called them again a few weeks ago to ask if they had warehouse space for this many diapers. I spoke with Chaplain Bridget, who blessed me right then and there over the phone and thanked me up and down for thinking of them.
Luckily, it all worked out. The Los Angeles Mission has a very stableinfrastructure of staff and volunteers already in place. I am inspiredby what they’ve been able to do and I look forward to learning more from them. Several staff members, including Barbara, the Director of Operations, were on hand last week when I headed downtown to be present when the diapers arrived.
When we were all set up, we had 2,000 diapers stacked around a table with the HAMO and mission banners on display. We had TV crews. We had bloggers.
The women who lugged their strollers up the stairs outside the door (there is a ramp, but for some reason the stairs were the preferred method) were brave enough to come into our little circus area. They bravely allowed to be photographed and filmed, and talked to us as we scrambled to provide them with the right size diapers for their kids. I confess. I felt like an asshole.
There I was, organizing this big presentation of diapers, worried about getting press to attend, worried about getting people to come to receive the diapers, worried about forgetting to take pictures or video or to write down people’s names. I had chosen my outfit carefully, worried about where to park on skid row, wondered where I would eat lunch.
And there they were. Homeless, broke, with babies.
Kenya and her two children
True, the publicity, however little the event attracted, will undoubtedly serve the greater good by spreading the message to others. I hope that more people wake up to the fact that diapers are not covered by public assistance the way food and formula are. I hope that more people learn about how many moms and dads are affected by what is now such a common worry that it has a name: diaper need. One in three. That’s right, 1 in 3 moms have had to choose between purchasing diapers and paying another crucial household bill like rent or electricity. Or they could have no money at all.
And now the Anne Douglas Center, which relies solely on donations, has 40,000 more diapers in the closet to give out when a needy parent comes to the door. And that makes me feel a little better.
View from the Anne Douglas Center
“Ain’t nobody ever thrown me a birthday party.”
The Anne Douglas Center at the Los Angeles Mission serves the homeless community with food, showers, clothing, toys, and more, while also operating a resident rehabilitation program for women addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. After the diaper handout was over, the bloggers toured the women’s facility and even met some of the residents. It’s a building full of hope and generosity. Director Barbara embodied both with great patience as she led us through the halls, recounting tales of women who turned their lives around in those rooms, many of whom had never in their previous hard lives had a birthday party, or remembered the last time they were sober for one. Group parties here make them break down in tears.
When I get overwhelmed, I think about people like Barbara and the women at the center to remember that there is good news in the world. The TV interviews I did that day haven’t aired yet, what with the crowded news days full of stories about Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, and BP. You have to come to places like this blog to learn that it’s not hopeless, that even stuck at your office desk, you too can help.
Volunteer at the Mommy and Me breakfast on Saturday mornings at the Los Angeles Mission
Hopefully this interview will air soon
[photo credits: Julia Frey and me]