It’s been five years since Baby Basics of Greater Hagerstown Inc. was founded. In that time, the economy has taken a downturn and unemployment has risen, making it even harder for working families to make ends meet.
The local nonprofit group was created by Charles “Charlie” Brown of Hagerstown, after he heard a news story on NPR by the founder of the national organization.
Jean Ann Lynch explained that many working families struggle to afford disposable diapers for their babies and toddlers.
Research has shown that children who are left in diapers longer than they should might cry in discomfort, which can lead to frustration by the parents and in some cases, physical abuse.
That story prompted Brown to move into action, with the support of his wife Patricia “Pat” Brown, who is vice president/secretary, a five-member board of directors and a group of volunteers, which distribute diapers to qualifying families in the county.
“It’s turned out the way I thought it would. The nice thing is how appreciative the families are,” said Charlie Brown, who serves as president.
“Charlie would give diapers to every baby in the world if he could,” said Debbie Ebersole, the group’s treasurer since the beginning.
Families must meet specific criteria to qualify to receive diapers bi-monthly. Morning and afternoon distribution times are offered.
“We say we give diapers and kindness,” Brown said.
To qualify, applicants must be Washington County residents, one parent/guardian must be working and the family cannot be eligible for federal or state assistance other than WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), a national food and nutrition service through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Diapers are provided to qualifying families until the child’s third birthday, unless the child is potty-trained earlier.
“We’re trying to help people who’ve fallen through the cracks,” Ebersole said.
Julie Seal, a Baby Basics mother since August 2011, has two children in the program.
“It is wonderful,” said Seal, who works at the AMVETS on Frederick Street in Hagerstown.
Baby Basics volunteer Karen O’Brien greeted and assisted Seal on a recent distribution day.
“It makes you feel good,” O’Brien said of her involvement with the program.
“Volunteering is really doing something for yourself. You see the smiles and you know the kids have dry bottoms. I like knowing bottoms are dry,” Ebersole said.
It’s been a learning experience for a group that estimates it has distributed 250,000 diapers since its founding, said Ebersole. They are currently helping 22 families with 29 babies.
“You never know what a small thing like a dry diaper can do. It’s such a small thing,” Ebersole said.
They purchase Luvs, because they’re the cheapest of the top three diaper brands, to “maximize donor dollars,” using coupons and store promotions whenever possible, she said.
“We’ve spent approximately $9,300 on diapers this year,” Ebersole said.
All donations go to buy diapers, with administrative costs covered by the volunteers, Brown said. They are also looking for donations of baby wipes.
“We have a few groups who give to us every year without fail,” Ebersole said.
Antietam Exchange Club is a founding partner, the Mathias Washington County Charitable Trust, Walmart Foundation, First Christian Church, and the Washington County Gaming Commission, along with individual donors, various churches and organizations, help fund the program.
The group is also grateful for the space Girls Inc. allows them to use free of charge for storage and distribution.
The Baby Basics board is seeking volunteers, donations, which are tax-deductible, and a few more qualified families to receive diapers.
“People who volunteer meet other nice people who are volunteers,” Brown said.
More information can be found at www.babybasicsgh.com or by calling 240-217-8182.