A closet on the third floor of an office building on Riva Road in Annapolis is not stocked with typical office supplies. Food Link Inc. has floor-to-ceiling stacks of diapers, baby bottles, canned foods and other basic-need items the organization collects to distribute to parents in need.
Food Link distributes its diaper stock to seven pantries throughout Anne Arundel County, which offer perishable and nonperishable foods and other items, such as diapers and bottles, to families that can't afford basic necessities.
The group is part of the National Diaper Bank Network, and this week marked National Diaper Need Awareness Week — seven days dedicated to holding diaper drives and garnering support for parents who struggle to provide these items for their children.
Across the nation, local community organizations are collecting diapers and spreading the word about the National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit formed to help new and existing diaper banks. The network distributes donated diapers to nonprofits and volunteer groups that provide services for local communities such as Food Link in Annapolis.
The National Diaper Bank Network was established in 2011 and has grown to more than 150 diaper banks, said Executive Director Joanne Goldblum. Donations come from people in the community and also corporate sponsors such as Huggies, which donates more than 20 million diapers to the network each year, Goldblum said.
"What diaper banks do is address a variety of different needs and impact parents' lives in different ways. Some of the ways they do so is alleviate stress and help families to be able to work and get themselves out of poverty," she said.
The network is also affiliated with the Walk the Walk Foundation in Millersville. The nonprofit organization established its diaper bank almost two years ago and has since conducted two annual diaper drives. The group has distributed about 50,000 diapers, said Chelsea MacCubbin, the foundation's spokeswoman.
Cathy Bird, Food Link's executive director, said, "We got involved with the National Diaper Bank [Network] last year because we're always looking for resources and there aren't that many grants out there that would enable us to buy products all the time and get large-scale donations."
Food Link's Emergency Baby Pantry Program is one of four programs the organization offers local families with financial need. The pantry also works with organizations such as Healthy Start, which provides home visits and basic health care services to families at or below the poverty level.
"We're a resource for [Healthy Start], and they've also asked us to keep certain things in the pantry so that they might be able to have them when they actually go out and make the calls to the families," Bird said.
Goldblum noted that across the nation, diaper bank workers provide important assistance to families in need.
"We're really lucky. It is a great group of people and it's all individuals who start diaper banks. … They're run mostly on a shoestring, they get a lot done and it's just a great group of people throughout the country who are doing this, Goldblum said.
For more information on the Annapolis-based Food Link Inc., go to http://www.foodlinkmaryland.org.