Today, we’re kicking off the first in an ongoing series about people doing wonderful, interesting, unusual things with their lives. The first person we’re featuring is a co-worker I’m lucky to know, Megan Fischer. When she mentioned that she was starting a diaper bank a few months ago, I was curious: How do you start a diaper bank? And what, exactly, does that entail? How does she balance working a full-time job, raising two kids and running a nonprofit organization? So I invited her to lunch, and she told me all about it.
Megan Fischer, Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank
- Passion project: Founder and executive director of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank
- Day job: Content developer for an educational technology/publishing company
- Social Media: Website Twitter Facebook
- Married for six-and-a-half years
- Two kids, ages 1.5 and 3
- Lives in Cincinnati, Ohio
When she was researching cloth diapers a few years ago, Megan Fischer stumbled on the term “diaper bank.” She was pregnant with her second child and was shocked to learn that formal support systems, including the government-funded Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or food stamps, don’t cover diaper purchases for low-income families.
“How would that feel as a parent, if I couldn’t afford diapers for my kids?” she asked herself. Her heart tugged at her to investigate, and she learned her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, didn’t have any regional diaper banks for local families. “I was in my cube at work crying, thinking about it,” she said.
But Fischer had a full-time job, and she had one kid with a second on the way. Her husband also worked full-time as a music teacher and band director, and he was finishing a master’s degree. But she couldn’t get the thought out of her head.
In September, her church offered a conference about entrepreneurship and spirituality. “This isn’t about me,” she realized. “There are babies that need diapers.” The diaper bank became a mission instead of a daydream.
From there, fate brought together a slew of volunteers to start a regional diaper bank, which Fischer named Sweet Cheeks. Her friend Mike Schell agreed to design the logo for her and build a website. Another friend stepped in to help with business management; a co-worker offered to help with setting up the organization as a tax-exempt nonprofit (called a 501(c)(3) by government standards).
By January, Fischer and her volunteer board of directors had received thousands of diapers through diaper drives at local businesses, and Sweet Cheeks earned nonprofit status. They made their first donations to two regional family service organizations in early 2016.
“There are a lot of social safety nets, but this is a huge gap,” Fischer said. The city of Cincinnati has a child poverty rate of 44.3 percent, and the region’s rate is 19.7 percent, according to the latest census data available. (The city has the fifth-worst child poverty rate in the nation, behind Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo and Fresno.)
Though she continues her full-time day job, Fischer estimates she spends 15 to 20 hours per week on Sweet Cheeks work: coordinating donation drives, packaging diapers for donations, writing social media posts and updating website content, and communicating with her board to create a strategic plan for the next several years. She recruits friends to bundle diapers into size-based packages of 50 (a number that the National Diaper Bank Network suggests is toughest for families to afford each month). She doesn’t have enough donations to pay for warehouse space or an office yet, so diapers end up stacked in her house while they wait to be distributed to local organizations. Her son thinks they’re giant building blocks, and she’s recruited him to help trim the size inserts that go into plastic-wrapped packages.
Her family might end up eating frozen pizza a little more than she’d like, but Fischer said the trade-off has been worth it to see the organization come together and the donations flow to local families. “This is what I’m supposed to do,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like work.”
Want to learn about diaper banks or find one in your region? You can find lots of information from the National Diaper Bank Network.
All photos courtesy Megan Fischer and Sweet Cheeks, with the exception of family photo by Steph & Dave Photography