Reprinted from the Arizona Daily Star, December 3, 2006                   

By Loni Nannini
Lynda Hanna hopes for a white Christmas. This native Tucsonan isn’t praying for snow; she’s dreaming of diapers.
For the past five years, Hanna has spent the holidays immersed in the Southern Arizona Community Diaper Bank’s December Diaper Drive. But as president of the Diaper Bank’s board of directors, Hanna knows that the need for diapers is not seasonal.
“We help the three populations that don’t very often speak for themselves,” Hanna said. “Babies can’t speak for themselves, and disabled people and adults often don’t speak for themselves.
“Our generation might be getting better, but it has been a taboo subject for years that adults need products,” she said. “One of the top reasons people go into nursing homes is incontinence. I try to share information about helping those three populations whenever I get the chance to talk about the Diaper Bank.”
Hanna emphasized that the Diaper Bank distributes diapers through more than 65 local agencies in a unique collaboration designed to maximize efficiency, minimize bureaucracy and encourage self-sufficiency. She said an “out of the box” approach includes mandatory casework for clients receiving diapers as well as nontraditional partnerships dedicated to providing innovative community opportunities and resources. One such partnership is with the Beacon Foundation, which offers disabled clients job training through the Diaper Bank warehouse.
“We learned long ago that if people are in need of diapers, generally they need case care and have other areas in which they need help, such as jobs, food or housing,” Hanna said. “By providing such a basic necessity, people are able to address other needs in their lives.”
Last year the Diaper Bank distributed more than 600,000 diapers, falling short of requests for more than 1 million, said Cheryl Smith, the Diaper Bank’s executive director. About 80 percent of the inventory went to babies, and 20 percent supplied adults and those who never outgrew the need for diapers. Smith said many people don’t realize that diapers are distributed on an emergency-only basis, generally in a three- or four-day supply.
Smith said the diapers make a huge difference in the recipients’ quality of life, allowing parents to take their children to day care so they can continue working and preventing the elderly and disabled from becoming shut-ins.
“We think about the impact on babies, but many of us don’t think of the impact on elderly, otherwise healthy individuals,” Smith said. “Half of the elderly on fixed incomes in our country receive less than $900 a month (per person) in Social Security benefits. It’s hard to afford $100 a month for incontinence supplies, so people end up staying closed in their homes and becoming depressed and reliant on services such as Meals on Wheels and other support systems. There are so many ramifications that can be prevented if they can just get the supplies they need.”
Hanna is confident that Tucsonans will open their hearts and help transform the December Diaper Drive into a year-round event.
“I find volunteerism is more hands-on here in Tucson,” Hanna said. “People really get the point quickly about what is needed and are very willing to pitch in, maybe because it’s still a small enough city that they see the need around them.”
Donate to the December Diaper Drive
Drop-off points for diaper donations for the Southern Arizona Community Diaper Bank include all UPS stores and Tucson Fire Department stations throughout the city, as well as Tucson City Council Offices, 94.9 MIX-FM and Travel 1.
Donations of money allow the Diaper Bank to buy diapers at bulk discounts. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to: Southern Arizona Community Diaper Bank, 3820 E. Bellevue St., Tucson, AZ 85716.
Volunteers are needed to help pick up and distribute diapers. For more information, call 325-1400.
● Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at [email protected].