Did you look in your closet full of clothes this morning and think I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!?
What if your closet only had one thing in it? Or what if your “closet” was a bag you lived out of at a hotel or homeless shelter?
Next week is our 3rd annual Little Black Dress Initiative. Junior League of Topeka members and community advocates will be wearing the same black dress every day Monday through Friday to raise awareness about the challenges facing those who live in poverty in the Topeka area and to raise money for Junior League of Topeka programs that provide food, health, and other services to the most vulnerable among us.
How one community project inspired a transformed community By Erin Aldridge & Tawny Stottlemire
Throughout our history, Junior League of Topeka (JLT) projects have been a catalyst for change in our community. Ideas spark and gaps in service are filled through these programs and initiatives. The Diaper Depot’s impact is no different.
In the 2018-2019 League year, Diaper Depot ownership was transferred to Community Action. As a distribution partner for the program, the fit was natural and complemented their existing social service assistance programs.
Today, Community Action continues to serve between 150 and 200 children each month, by providing a free pack of 50, size-appropriate, diapers to parents from low-income households. The program is supported solely through community donations and grants.
But, gaps in services go far beyond just diapers.
Through the partnership with the National Diaper Bank Network, Community Action sourced ways to further meet the needs of the community. This lead to a partnership that created “The Period Pantry”. “The foundation of the two programs is very similar,” said Tawny Stottlemire, Community Action’s Executive Director. “Diaper Depot and Period Pantry allow us to address two very pressing needs for lower income mothers and menstruators.” According to data released by the Alliance for Period Supplies, an affiliate of the National Diaper Bank Network, one in four women have struggled to purchase period supplies in the past year. “Menstruation supplies are a need,” says Stottlemire, “not a luxury.”
In 2020, JLT members supported various projects, including Community Action, around the community through the creation of Period Packs.
Thanks to Community Action’s access to warehouse space, even more options became available. “Community Action rents space in a local warehouse to store and prepare our monthly diaper distribution and quarterly Period Pantry work,” Stottlemire told JLT representatives. “Because we have some available warehouse space, we are also able to participate in a product donation program with our local Bed, Bath and Beyond store.”
According to Stottlemire, Bed, Bath and Beyond provides a monthly donation of store products that range from bed sheets and pillows to curtains, clocks and candles. Community Action uses the products to help families transitioning from homelessness to furnish their homes. “Our customers have been so very appreciative, and surprised,” said Stottlemire, “by not only securing their own housing in a place they can afford and feel safe but to also have a few comforts to make it feel like a home.”