Christmas came a little early on Thursday, Nov. 30, for a nonprofit that seeks to provide Upstate families with diapers.
The beds of two full-size GHS pickup trucks parked on the main quad of the health system’s medical campus at 830 S. Buncombe Road in Greer were flooded with packages of diapers.
Ernestine Whittenberg, executive director and founder of the Diaper Bank of the Carolinas, said it was the largest single donation her organization has received since its inception in 2006.
“We are so thankful for the generosity of the staff at [Greer Memorial Hospital] and the community,” Whittenberg said. “We started this more than 10 years ago out of the trunk of my car. It’s just amazing to see this kind of support. We feel very blessed.”
In September, Diaper Bank of the Carolinas kicked off a month-long campaign called Operation Dry Baby Bottom with an ambitious goal of collecting 1 million diapers to meet the needs of families in Greenville County and other surrounding communities.
That drive, held in partnership with Community Journals and the Children’s Hospital of GHS, collected about 116,000 diapers.
“We wanted to reach for the stars this year,” Whittenberg said. “While we fell short of our goal, Operation Dry Baby Bottom was a success in terms of the awareness it brought to this issue. Now, we’re seeing more people applying [for diaper aid] and a lot more people giving.”
Officials who helped lead the GHS campaign said Greer Memorial Hospital decided to hold its diaper drive after the operation wrapped up due to other campaigns that were going on at the same time.
They said it was a positive learning experience for everyone involved.
Whittenberg founded the organization after she noticed a need through her work as a parent educator providing developmental screenings through home visits. She said she saw babies in wet, dirty, saggy diapers that needed to be changed.
The organization’s mission is to go beyond combating the negative health impacts from dirty diapers, such as diaper rash and urinary tract infections. It also hopes to battle developmental and behavioral problems by promoting a healthy and happy home environment.
On average, diapers must be changed about 10 times per day, according to the organization. This can represent a significant cost for low-income families, which means many have to choose between buying diapers and paying bills.
Whittenberg said there is no state or federal aid available for the purchase of diapers. Diapers can’t be purchased with food stamps or WIC vouchers.
“This was really an eye-opening experience,” said Stephanie Hinojos, a registered nurse and lactation consultant in the labor and delivery unit at Greer Memorial Hospital, who helped lead the hospital’s campaign that lasted from Oct. 1 through Nov. 23. “The amazing thing to me is that these diapers are going to stay in this community.”
Hinojos credited several of her coworkers for leading the hospital’s drive, including Viki Hurlburt, Diedre Nall, Dedra Ray, and Genia Harvey.
She said the hospital posted collection boxes at various GHS facilities, held a fundraiser at a Zaxby’s restaurant on Wade Hampton Boulevard, received donations during Oktoberfest, and worked in partnership with an eighth grade class at Riverside Middle School.
Hinojos said there was even a friendly competition among the various units within the hospital to see who could collect the most diapers. She said the labor and delivery unit won the competition by 12 diapers.
The hospital’s original goal was 14,000 diapers, Hinojos said.
“What better way to celebrate the holidays than by being thankful and by giving,” she said.
John Mansure, president of the GHS Greer Medical Campus, said the hospital plans to hold more diaper drives and he hopes its participation will encourage other Upstate hospitals to get involved.
“This fits right in with our mission of caring for the community,” Mansure said. “This is an issue that has health implications way down the line. I am so proud of these guys.”