Outreach around the Diocese: St. Mark’s, Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Diaper Mission
I spent a few years in my early 30s living in Washington, D.C. While there, I connected with a great group of women that held a big Christmas party each year. In addition to catching up and exchanging cookies, they always collected diapers and menstrual supplies for the D.C. Diaper Bank. I had never heard of a diaper bank, but I was so impressed with how many supplies they collected to help their neighbors in need.
St. Mark's first Diaper Drive, Advent-Christmas 2016-2017
When I returned to Milwaukee in mid-2015, I resumed attending St. Mark’s. I occasionally volunteered with some of our various events, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my friends back in D.C. and their diaper project. So in the fall of 2016, I approached the rector at St. Mark’s and told him I’d like to host a diaper drive. We scheduled our diaper drive for Advent and Christmas because diapers are far more useful than frankincense to new parents, even when their child is the Messiah.
While preparing for our drive, we learned that as many as one in three families experience diaper need at some point. Diapers are not eligible for purchase with WIC or SNAP (food stamps) funds. Clean diapers are necessary for healthy babies, and as I was soon to find out when I had my own child in 2017, infants can go through as many as 12 diapers per day.
For our 2016-2017 drive, we collected somewhere around 4,000 diapers. The next year, we collected a bit more. By the 2020-2021 drive, we were able to supply 10,000 diapers to Riverwest Food Pantry, Robyn’s Nest, and HOPE Network for Single Mothers.
Volunteers during St. Mark’s 2021 Summer of Service
As the ministry began to grow, I knew we needed to get more strategic about where we donated the diapers we collected. I thought we might be close to needing to start a full-fledged diaper bank. Like a food bank, a diaper bank supplies diapers to direct service agencies like food pantries and community centers. When I began this research in the spring of 2021, I quickly discovered that Milwaukee Diaper Mission had launched in the fall of 2020, supplying both disposable and reusable diapers and menstrual products. Rather than duplicate efforts, we quickly pivoted our existing diaper ministry into a partnership with Milwaukee Diaper Mission.
Packaging diapers last summer
A large benefit of partnering with Milwaukee Diaper Mission has been the opportunity for parishioners to volunteer and feel more connected with this basic needs ministry. For the St. Mark’s 2021 Summer of Service, we had 17 parishioners volunteer in some way or another. We primarily worked at Milwaukee Diaper Mission’s cramped Bay View warehouse, but we even had a fearless group of four women who spent one Saturday morning moving 40,000 diapers from a basement in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood to Milwaukee Diaper Mission’s warehouse.
Volunteers at the new warehouse in Franklin
Milwaukee Diaper Mission recently moved into a much-needed larger space in Franklin, and St. Mark’s has already sent half a dozen volunteers to the new warehouse, where we packaged diapers, assembled period kits, and recorded inventory. Volunteering with Milwaukee Diaper Mission is a great way to help provide basic needs for those in our community. Tasks are available for all abilities and ages – that baby I had in 2017 is now four and has helped pack period kits and put packages of diapers on the shelves. St. Mark’s has four more volunteer dates scheduled for 2022, as well as plans for a midyear menstrual product drive and our Advent and Christmas diaper drive. If you would like to join us in volunteering at the warehouse, host your own drive, or discuss how else your parish can get involved in this basic needs ministry, please reach out to me at .
Senior Warden, St. Mark’s, Milwaukee