Another cog in the supply chain disrupted by the pandemic: diapers. And as struggling families with young children face more challenges to making ends meet, one local group has stepped up to help.
Just over five years ago, Jamie Lackey was a social worker, nonprofit professional and mother, when she noticed gaps in services for families in need, particularly when it came to baby supplies. Financial assistance programs like SNAP, for example, don’t allow for purchasing diapers and other essentials.
In late 2014, Lackey launched a nonprofit out of a friend’s garage, which she called “Helping Mamas.”
The organization gathers and distributes things like diapers, wipes, car seats, and other items to organizations that help women and children in poverty.
While the need was there long before COVID-19, shelter-in-place guidelines and mass unemployment have only increased demand for these products — and present new obstacles for families already struggling.
“We’ve seen a huge increase and uptick in need right now like nothing I’ve ever seen before in my 20 years of being a social worker,” Lackey said. “There are days we’re distributing over 15,000 diapers a day, and that’s what we would sometimes distribute in a normal month. So, the need has just grown dramatically.”
To adapt to these new coronavirus realities, Helping Mamas started offering contactless pick-ups. Social workers and organizations that would ordinarily be able to browse the non-profit's Norcross warehouse are now able to put in an order online. The Helping Mamas staff then fills the order themselves, putting the packages in a safe place to be picked up and carried back to needy families across the state.
Helping Mamas works with more than 100 partner agencies to help distribute these crucial supplies. One such organization is the Macon-based Southern Center For Choice Theory, which provides counseling and mental health support, particularly for local families struggling with poverty and violence.
According to Andrea Cooke, a therapist and development director for the Center, the already dire need for support has grown larger.
“Macon has a concentrated poverty rate of 44.7 percent,” Cooke explained. "A lot of the job opportunities that are in this area are laborers and people who are going to come into contact. And if you don't work in a grocery store or if you don't work in a restaurant — even if you did work in those those arenas — you've either lost hours or you've chosen to not do those jobs because you have to take care of your children who are no longer in school."
Cooke noted that Helping Mamas has allowed her organization to provide quality products — and relief — to struggling parents living with the stress and uncertainty of coronavirus.
“The diaper bags that I’ve been able to give to parents have been phenomenal,” she said. "Helping Mamas helps me to be able to get diapers and Pull-Ups and wipes and bottles to those families so that they don't have to leave home to get them. And they don't have to use viable resources to purchase those things because we can help them."
Even with the governor’s attempts to re-start the economy, the toll of the pandemic will be especially hard on those who were already struggling.
“One in three moms has to choose between food and diapers for their children,” Lackey noted. “And it is a decision that families are literally making every day right now. We’re so grateful that we’re here in that we’re able to serve, and that we’re able to get so many diapers and so many essential items out to families that need them so much right now.”
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