By Ginger DeShaney
Cheryl Itri had a dream to create a Diaper Depot and the community came together to make it a reality.
Itri, director of early education & care programs at South Boston Neighborhood House, envisioned a place where families could access what they need for their babies without barriers and without judgment.
The Ollie Diaper Depot’s grand opening will be held Saturday, Feb. 12 at noon at 1187 Columbia Road, the Ollie’s preschool.
“We’re so excited about the Diaper Depot,” said Kathy Lafferty, executive director of SBNH. “Everyone really worked together and came together to make it happen.”
The Depot will be open the second Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the fourth Wednesday of each month from 3-6 p.m. Once registered, families visit the Depot once a month to get a month’s supply of diapers.
The cost of an average monthly supply of diapers is approximately $80, which is a hardship for many families, Lafferty said, noting one in three families in the United States struggles to provide clean diapers.
“We just want to make it a little bit easier for families,” Lafferty said. “We want it to be a space where there’s no judgment. You need diapers, you register, and you come and get them, that’s it.”
Close to 300 families have already registered for the Depot, Lafferty said.
The Ollie regularly gives out diapers, “but during the pandemic we saw the need and requests significantly increase,” Lafferty said, noting they’d been distributing them out of the main building and the preschool.
They had diapers “up to our eyeballs” because they didn’t have storage. So most of the diapers ended up in Itri’s office. “Cheryl has had this idea because her office would be full of diapers,” said Lafferty. “She used to joke and say when she retires, she’ll open a diaper depot. We just kind of fast-forwarded to the dream. She is not retiring!”
They decided that if they were going to do it right, they needed a dedicated space. “So that’s where we came up with the idea of a shipping container,” Lafferty said. But because of the pandemic, it was difficult to find one.
At an event for another agency, Lafferty and Itri happened to be talking to Jon Cronin and Michael Kineavy of the Cronin Group about the Depot and their need for a shipping container. “They loved it. Literally within five days, we had a brand-new shipping container delivered to the preschool site,” Lafferty said, crediting the duo as well as Jim O’Donovan. “They’re just amazing people that make things happen.”
It was the same thing with Jerome Smith at Amazon. “We reached out to our friends at Amazon and they were willing to help us fill it,” Lafferty said.
“Every time we talked to someone, all of the elected officials, the Parks Department, because we had to get permission to put the shipping container on their property … every single person we talked to was like, ‘This is a great idea. How can we help?’ ”
The Ollie received a couple of other small grants and private donations to help get the Depot running. They will be reaching out to a national diaper registry to hopefully become a member so they can buy diapers in bulk at a reduced price.
Because the South Boston community is super generous, the Depot will be open once a month – probably a Saturday or Sunday – to receive donations. “So there’ll be an opportunity for families or groups or companies or businesses or whoever wants to donate,” said Lafferty.
The Depot will accept donations of brand-new, unopened diapers from sizes newborn to 6, as well as wipes.
The Depot will distribute just diapers and wipes. However, when the Ollie connects with families, they may find out they need a crib, or a high chair, or a car seat. “In natural conversation with families, we find other things out,” Lafferty said. “As we get to know families and as they get to know us, we’ll be able to help them out with other things.”
There are other agencies that give out diapers. “I don’t know of another standalone Diaper Depot like this,” Lafferty said. “I think this is a little bit unique.”
To register for the Diaper Depot, visit https://bit.ly/3Ku8dbo or call 617-268-1619, Ext. 207