Hundreds of Chicago families in need will receive diapers this winter thanks to a drive launched by two ParkShore women — an initiative they hope will inspire other New Eastside residents to give back to the community as well.
Dr. Jo Ann Roberts found inspiration for the project after listening to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger discussing the challenges faced by women from disadvantaged backgrounds. When Roberts learned that SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase diapers, she approached Charlene Roderick, ParkShore's social director, to find a way to help.
Since the ParkShore diaper drive was created Dec. 5, donors have contributed thousands of diapers to the cause. The drive is scheduled to run through Jan. 9, and residents interested in making a donation are encouraged to drop off diapers at the front desk in the ParkShore lobby, 195 N. Harbor Drive.
"I say that we have to have compassion for one another," Roberts said. "And that's what drove me to offer the project to the building, and the building has truly embraced it. Many people have walked up to me and said that they want to continue to do it year-round."
A 2013 study by Yale University researchers found three in 10 poor mothers were unable to afford an adequate supply of diapers. While the results of the study ultimately led to greater efforts to distribute diapers to low-income families throughout the country, families remain unable to use SNAP benefits to buy diapers for their children.
For Roderick, who has been involved with a number of charitable drives in the community — including an ongoing New Eastside food drive in which more than a dozen neighborhood buildings are participating -- the diaper drive has been an opportunity to educate residents about an important issue.
"We would be in the foyer with this cute little playpen, and we'd give them the history of what was happening — supporting women, black, brown and otherwise with regard to not being able to buy diapers with those cards," she said. "Subsequent to that, I would give them the website, and they were astonished. They said, 'You are going to get some diapers from me.'"
The diapers collected through the drive will be donated to three Chicago-based organizations serving families from low-income backgrounds: Cradles to Crayons Chicago, a nonprofit that offers resources such as clothing, books and toys; the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a nonprofit headed by Jackson; and Saint Sabina Church, where Pfleger serves as pastor.
Jackson said difficulties in affording diapers have placed many low-income families in "terrible situations" such as having to choose between food and diapers for their children.
"When people like Dr. Roberts reach out, it's so helpful," he said. "People all over this complex have given diapers and baby clothes and baby shoes and toys and masks."
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