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Stuff the Bus drive nets nearly 430,200 diapers for families in need

After a small group of women at Mountain Chapel United Methodist Church in Birmingham hosted a baby shower for a struggling, single mom seven years ago, they recognized the need went far beyond one person. That simple shower led to the launch of Bundles of Hope, Birmingham’s only nonprofit diaper bank.

“Some of the women in our group had recently come back from a mission trip overseas,” said Lindsay Gray, executive director of Bundles of Hope. “While helping people overseas is amazing, we realized there is mission work all around us.”

That’s when the women decided to find a way to help the moms in need in their own backyard.

“We thought, ‘What do moms really, really need?’ and diapers came up,” said Gray. “We realized there was nothing in the community that focused on providing diapers to these moms.”

The group went to work to organize and host a diaper drive. After that first event, they knew they “were on to something,” Gray said.

Babies often use eight to 10 diapers every day, which can cost up to $100 a month. (contributed)

Nationwide, one in three families need diapers. Additionally, babies often use eight to 10 diapers every day, which can cost up to $100 a month. Finally, child care facilities require babies and toddlers to use disposable diapers, a hardship for working mothers who can’t afford them.

To meet the ongoing need, the group formed Bundles of Hope, which has distributed more than 3 million diapers to families across Alabama since 2015.

“Alabama is among the most impoverished states in the country, and many families need the support we can give them,” Gray said. “Diapers are super expensive. By giving parents and caregivers diapers, we are encouraging them and letting them know they are doing a great job.”

On Oct. 3, Bundles of Hope wrapped up its seventh annual Stuff the Bus Diaper Drive. During the 10-day drive, passersby dropped off 430,197 diapers, repeatedly filling a school bus that was parked on U.S. Highway 280 on a gravel easement near the Target shopping center. Bundles of Hope also received monetary donations that will be used to buy diapers, pullups, wipes and other baby necessities.

The Magic City Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) helped collect items and donations for the drive, held in conjunction with National Diaper Awareness Week.

“Sadly, there are many families in the Birmingham metro area who are unable to purchase diapers for their children due to financial hardships,” said Shenita Baker, Alabama Power Customer Accounting analyst and Magic City APSO president. “Diapers can become a large expense. Bundles of Hope distributes about 75,000 diapers per month. APSO Magic City Chapter is excited to partner with Bundles of Hope to assist in their efforts, support the community and be a part of the change.”

Southern Company Environmental Solutions Engineer Ashley Grissom, who coordinated APSO’s involvement in the project for the fourth consecutive year, has a heart for these infants and toddlers. One of the women who helped host that first baby shower, Grissom has been a Bundles of Hope volunteer from the start and is the diaper drive coordinator.

“Babies are helpless and can’t control what circumstances they are born into,” Grissom said. “This is a way that I can help families, and especially these babies, and give back to the community.”

Gray said Bundles of Hope is grateful to APSO for lending a hand with the drive year after year.

“Our network is only so big, so when we have support from Alabama Power and the community, it opens up opportunities for us to reach more families and raises awareness about Bundles of Hope,” she said. “The more support we get, it trickles over to more families we can serve.”

Bundles of Hope distributes diapers through more than 40 community agencies and partners, including food pantries, shelters, foster-care facilities, churches and Children’s of Alabama hospital. Families in need can pick up free packages of diapers and other baby supplies at the Changing Station, the Bundles of Hope diaper distribution center in downtown Birmingham.

“We bundle the diapers into packs of 25, so everyone gets the same number,” said Grissom, who regularly volunteers at the Changing Station.

Bundles of Hope also provides diapers to families hit hard by natural disasters. After Hurricane Ida, the organization sent 80,000 diapers to Feeding the Gulf Coast, which serves families in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Collecting diapers is not a one-time effort. In September alone, Bundles of Hope partnered with churches and other groups to host more than 70 drives across the community. The organization is on track to distribute 1 million diapers in 2021.

Monetary donations are welcome. Because the organization buys in bulk from manufacturers, a dollar goes a long way, Gray said.

“At the end of the day, diapering is what we are called to do,” she said. “But we do it to encourage and support families. That’s what we should be doing – helping families, whether it’s by giving them food, clothing or diapers.”

For more information or to donate, visit Bundles of Hope accepts diapers in new or opened packages, and the most needed sizes are 6 and pullups.