I love finding opportunities with my kids where we can have a little fun and help out the community in ways big or small.
Over the years, my kids have collected items for food banks and cleaned up outdoor spaces. My older daughter also has volunteered several times during the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina's Kids Days. I find these kinds of activities shift the focus from what they want to what other people need, which I think is good and healthy and part of my job as a parent.
It's not always easy to find volunteer activities for all ages, especially young kids who are toddling underfoot. That's why I absolutely love volunteering at the Diaper Bank of North Carolina in Durham. Not only does Michelle Old, the executive director and a mom, welcome children and families as volunteers, she encourages them.
Even toddlers can help here, carrying soft packages of diapers or individual diapers to their adults for wrapping up. Once they get tired, they can then toddle over to a play area with a toy kitchen, books, blocks and other activities.
Old launched the Diaper Bank in June 2013 to fill a need. At a cost of about $100 a month to diaper a baby, one in three families don't have enough money to keep their babies clean and dry. Social service programs typically don't cover the cost for diapers.
The nonprofit has since donated more than 310,000 diapers to agencies in the Triangle that work with needy families. In the last few months, Old also has expanded the bank's reach, partnering with groups in the Triad and eastern North Carolina.
You can read much more about the bank and its growth in my feature on Old, who also is a mom of three. The group also collects adult diapers for seniors and cloth diapers for families who have the resources to clean and care for them. It's funded entirely by community donations and small grants.
I took my girls to the Diaper Bank, which has offices in a church near downtown Durham, in late March. Old took us to the big diaper room where a wall is covered in tall shelves filled with diapers of all sizes. A couple of long tables sit in the middle of the room so volunteers can wrap up the diapers.
The Diaper Bank rewraps diapers into packages of 25, which can supply a baby with clean diapers for a few days. Old showed us how to stack the diapers and wrap them up with big sheets of plastic wrap. My five-year-old and I packaged size 2 diapers. My 10-year-old took over the size 3s.
For two hours, we did this. My older daughter did it all on her own. My five-year-old counted and stacked the diapers and I wrapped them up. All along, we chatted with Old about her work and Durham. By the end, we had wrapped up 1,325 diapers.
"Those will be on babies by next week," Old told us.
The Diaper Bank has regular wrapping events from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., each Tuesday through Thursday. (It's always best to call ahead at 919-886-8085 to make sure that Old and others haven't been called out to a meeting or special event). All ages are welcome. If those times don't work, you also can contact the bank to set up a time for your group or event. The Diaper Bank's website has more information about volunteering. I think this would be a lot of fun for play groups, moms groups and youth groups.