Diaper Depot provides for families in need in Cook, Lake counties

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Diaper Depot provides for families in need in Cook, Lake counties

Volunteers sort through and package diapers as part of a Catholic Charities Diaper Depot program that offers diapers to families in need on May 1, 2024 at the Schreiber Center for Human Services in Round Lake. The year-round Diaper Depot is a diaper bank that supplies diapers to children of all religious, racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds throughout the county. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Julie Arons stacks packages of diapers in the warehouse on May 1, 2024. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bob Pakaski measures out plastic wrap to package sets of diapers. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Lisa Roti and John DeCostanza talk as volunteers sort through and package diapers. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Andy Kocur and Tom Powers prepare to load a car with diapers that will be picked up by clients, agencies and families. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Don Rosanova loads diapers into a car on pick-up day for clients that place their orders for the month. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic

Diaper need is a significant issue for children in Illinois, and Catholic Charities’ Diaper Depot in Lake County aims to ease the burden on families.

“The main objective for us is to put nice, clean, fresh diapers on God’s babies’ butts. That’s really what this is all about,” said Don Rosanova, retired president of Mariano’s and the lead volunteer at the Diaper Depot.

Volunteers gather at the depot in the Schreiber Center for Human Services in Round Lake the first Wednesday of every month to package and distribute diapers to partner organizations, who then provide the diapers to their clients. The organizations send in orders with the number of children they serve and their diaper sizes and volunteers fill the orders.

Organizations receive at least 50 diapers for each child. That number is meant to cover the last week of each month, when families often run out of money to purchase diapers.

Catholic Charities receives donations of diapers from parishes around the archdiocese and the agency’s Junior Board. When there are gaps in supply, they can purchase diapers through the National Diaper Bank at almost a 60% savings.

Parishes often host diaper drives for the depot. St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Zurich donated more than 25,000 diapers from its drive. A second collection netted $11,000, Rosanova said.

Rosanova maintains an inventory so volunteers know when to order more diapers.

Of the more than 400,000 children under age 3 in Illinois, half are in diaper need, said Brittany McGhee, senior director for mission engagement for Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Diaper need is a major issue locally and nationally.

“Diaper need is a significant symptom of poverty,” McGhee said. “We know that many moms, particularly moms who are perhaps economically disadvantaged or leading younger families, struggle with being able to afford consistent, clean, new diapers for babies and their children.”

On average, children need diapers up to age 3, she said, and they go through about 12 diapers a day. Federal safety net programs such as SNAP do not cover diapers.

Diaper need can keep people in poverty, she said.

“When we think about barriers to economic success and the flourishing of families, it’s not necessarily the first thing people think of, but we know there are significant health impacts for babies who don’t have access to clean diapers,” she said.

Some parents are forced to use paper or cloth towels, or even plastic bags, in place of diapers. Others may resort to washing dirty paper diapers or keeping babies and children in diapers for longer periods of time. That can result in diaper rash, urinary tract infections or even delayed development.

“Certainly we know that lack of diapers is a significant impediment to early childhood programs,” McGhee said. “You can’t place your baby in daycare if you don’t have the three to five diapers that the daycare requires. That impacts a parent’s ability to work.”

Since the Diaper Depot is volunteer driven, 100% of any funds donated for diaper need go directly to purchasing diapers, McGhee said.

The depot is a well-oiled machine thanks to Rosanova, said volunteer Tom Powers.

“This whole thing works because he’s brilliant,” said Powers. “To have somebody of his background running this simple distribution organization is just tremendous. It’s very efficient.”

They hope to double the number of diapers they distribute over the next two years.

Rosanova was connected with the Diaper Depot and Catholic Charities through the Ignatian Volunteer Corps.

Given his background, Catholic Charities asked him to set up the warehouse in Round Lake. They thought it would take a year, but Rosanova was done in about a week, he said, because he was used to running warehouses stocked with tens of thousands of different items. The Diaper Depot only has about 10 items that it stocks.

Next, Rosanova began looking at how the program operated and how to make it more efficient. He also began learning about how severe diaper need is.

“There are a lot of things just beyond people’s recognition of what’s going on. People don’t talk about diaper need. People who experience diaper need are ashamed. They feel they are bad parents,” he said. “Really, at the end of the day, this is a health crisis that exists in the United States and people are unaware of it.”

Parishes or schools interested in hosting a diaper drive can email [email protected].


  • catholic charities

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