Eight years ago as Sharon Campomizzi and Trish Richardson prepared to open up a monthly diaper depot at Trinity United Methodist Church, the two roved around Philipsburg, hanging fliers and spreading the word about what started as an idea and morphed into an experiment.
More than 1,600 packs of diapers later, fliers are no longer needed. Within two hours in December, 57 customers filed in to pick up diapers.
“We were just winging it as it went along,” Campomizzi said, recalling the early days. “We didn’t know if it was going to work.”
During the Jan. 18 All God’s Children Diaper Depot, Campomizzi thumbed through index cards every time a family walked in — toddlers in tow or babies on hips — to mark the diaper size being given out while Richardson darted in the back to pull from the robust inventory. They have it down to a science now, and from shopping to distribution, the duo run the depot on their own, but there’s a community behind them.
“We’ve been very fortunate; we haven’t had to do a lot of work,” Richardson said. “It’s come to us.”
They give a lot of credit to the church, where the idea was born. Campomizzi still remembers the week they told the congregation the depot might not open the next month because there was only 12 cents in the account. Within a week, that was replaced with $1,200.
The depot, which is available for any child with a medical Access card, has also grown to include offer children’s clothing, some baby food, blankets and hats and mittens in the winter. Donations and diapers come from all over the community, and are often there waiting for Campomizzi and Richardson when they open the monthly depot.
“Sometimes we don’t know where they come from. I wish we did, because I’d like to thank them,” Campomizzi said.
Diapers are among the most costly baby supplies and unique in that they are not covered by food stamps. At the State College Area Food Bank, they’re always in high demand, according to Executive Director Carol Pioli.
“We get diapers infrequently,” she said. “They run off the shelves quickly, and when we distribute them we have to limit the number we give and we want to be able to share with other clients.”
For Alicia Sharpless, who lives in Philipsburg and has two children in diapers, there’s a tendency to run out of supplies between paychecks.
“This helps fill that gap,” she said, browsing through donated clothes after picking up diapers at the depot.
Tara Jackson, of Bellefonte, also knows about that gap. She’s been gearing up since last summer to open a diaper bank that would service the other side of Centre County.
“Fourteen years ago, I was a single mother and I was living paycheck to paycheck,” Jackson said. “When my daughter was sick or when day care would use more, I’d sometimes need just five diapers to get me to payday.”
Now, she’s in the flier stage of MJ’s Diaper Bank. The effort has been mostly fueled up to this point by the Facebook group Happy Valley Moms. Jackson stores donated diapers in her home for now, and said she’s helped out more than 20 people in the past months, and saw need increase sharply over the holidays. She and her husband, Sam, travel to meet families during emergency situations and have a policy of no income requirements or questions asked.
“I don’t want people to be ashamed to ask,” Jackson said. “As a mom, asking for help is the most important thing you can do.”
The next steps, she said, are continuing to get the word out, soliciting donations and eventually finding a brick and mortar location.
In Philipsburg, Campomizzi and Richardson plan to keep running the depot for the foreseeable future, even if they hadn’t expected the long-term commitment when they volunteered to spearhead the effort years ago. Every month brings new customers, and Campomizzi said the grateful families, grandmothers and single moms and dads make it worthwhile.
“I don’t think we envisioned doing it this long,” Richardson said. “We didn’t think it would take off the way it did.”
Josie Krieger contributed.
All God’s Children Diaper Depot
When: 4-6 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month, September-May
Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 121 S. Front St., Philipsburg
Info: 342-1820; monetary donations and diapers can be dropped off at the church
MJ’s Diaper Bank
Info: 353-1277, firstname.lastname@example.org for donations, services