A retired teacher who moved to the Rogue Valley two years go to read, relax and "maybe even play bridge," Talent resident CJ Lipski didn't expect her life's focus would shift to meeting desperate and personal needs for babies and seniors in her community.
Lipski, founder of the Rogue Valley's first diaper bank, began her effort in August and has collected more than 10,500 diapers — for babies and adults — for various local agencies.
Donations to the Neighborhood Diaper Bank can be made at www.neighborhooddiaperbank.org. Donations of full or partial packs of
diapers (infant, todder "pull-ups" or adult diapers) can be made by calling Lipski at 520-609-4894 for pickup.
Lipski moved from Tucson, Ariz., two years ago. Having helped with diaper drives through a local civic club there, the 69-year-old saw a similar need when she moved to Southern Oregon.
"I had a friend who had collected diapers with me in Tucson. They moved to Detroit and started a diaper bank," says Lipski. "When I moved here, I did some research and decided to start one, too, when I realized how much need there was for diapers."
Diapers are something most people don't think of when they assess the food and shelter needs of families. But a lack of diapers can raise a family's stress level, affect the health of infants and even impact a parent's ability to hold a job.
"Day care centers will not accept children without disposable diapers, so it becomes a vicious cycle when people are trying to get ahead. When you're struggling to make ends meet and feed your family, diapers aren't the first thing that gets bought, but you can't drop your child off at day care without diapers," says Lipski, noting that while public assistance provides everything from food to shelter, diapers aren't provided by most agencies.
"I've heard of families taking dirty, disposable diapers and rinsing them out and having to use them again. And for older adults who wear diapers, it's important for them to be able to go out in public and not have to worry about being embarrassed. Having diapers can prevent them from becoming reclusive."
To free up space for her diaper bank, Lipski sold her dining-room furniture. She started around the time that Neighborhood Food Project expanded into the Phoenix-Talent area, and Food Project organizers agreed to add diapers to the list of items they pick up from donors six times per year.
Other local agencies and organizations, such as scouting groups and clubs, occasionally step in to help Lipski collect supplies.
Mary-Curtis Gramley, director of the Family Nurturing Center in Medford, says Lipski has filled a void in the community with her project and generous nature.
"She has been such an innovator and so very persistent in meeting a need. After being aware enough about her community and committed enough to help, she determined an effective way to respond," says Gramley.
"We use many, many diapers in our program, and she has been very helpful and provided us with sort of an ongoing stream of diaper supplies."
Even though she's "happily retired," Lipski puts in about 20 hours each week, she notes, "though hardly making a dent in the community's need for diapers."
"We pretty much have nothing on hand, and all the things I bring in are usually distributed. We have yet to pile my dining room high," she says.
But Lipski is committed to making those piles grow.
"I'm a mother and a retired teacher, so I've seen children from a lot of different viewpoints. One thing I know for sure is, when they cry, they need to be changed. It's really sad for a parent to have to listen to that and not be able to help," she says.
"I guess I'm a little more passionate about diapers than most people. This certainly was not on my list, but I have the time, and there is a need to be met. Something that my mother taught me, and that I truly believe in, is that we are obligated to look after each other."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.