July 11, 2008 -- While working as a social worker in New Haven, Conn., Joanne Goldblum had an alarming realization.
"I guess I'm a little bit singled-minded," she said. "And I just got a little bit crazy about this idea that diapers are really a basic need. And somehow in our society we've turned them into a luxury that certain people can't afford."
Not only are diapers an expensive necessity, people on government assistance can't use that help to buy them.
"I was really horrified to hear that food stamps put diapers on a list with alcohol, cigarettes and pet food for things that can't be purchased," she said of her inspiration to do something about the problem.
"You would see kids in diapers that you know they have been wearing all day and the day before. I saw parents empty diapers out and put them back on. Or leave diapers out to try to dry them out so they could use them again."
Besides the health risks associated with reusing diapers or using them for too long, there are less obvious but just as harmful effects.
Goldblum, 43, said that something as minimal as a diaper rash can spiral into a strep infection or something worse.
"Diaper rash causes really unhappy children," she said. "And really unhappy children cry more and children who cry more are at greater risk for child abuse."
And diapers are a requirement for children in daycare.
"You can't go to daycare without disposable diapers," Joanne said. "We want everybody to work, but parents can't work if their children aren't taken care of and their children can't be taken care of without diapers."
To remedy this problem, Goldblum in 2004 founded the Diaper Bank, which she runs without compensation.
With donations and grant money, she buys disposable diapers in bulk for less than half the cost of what a family would be charged at the local convenience store.
Diaper-drives at schools and churches add to the bounty. Goldblum and her small staff sort and bag the donated diapers. Then they are distributed through places like child care centers, homeless shelters, food pantries and battered women's shelters.
When Goldblum started the Diaper Bank, she gave away a few thousand a month. Now she distributes more than 150,000 every month. And she just hit a milestone: two million diapers distributed to date.
While providing diapers might seem like a small gesture, the Diaper Bank's clients treasure the service it provides.
Charmein Kirk, a local mother, was able to pamper three of her children with help from the Diaper Bank.
"It cut into everything and I couldn't wait for them to be potty trained," Kirk said. "But when the diaper bank came it was a God-send because it was an entire bill, literally an entire bill that was eliminated."
The Diaper Bank has become an indispensable resource in the community.
"I really feel this is something that needs to be done," Goldblum said. "I think that people who have the ability to make a difference should."