Youth from St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, collected two full pallets of diapers and $1,300 during a diaper drive for Child Care Resources of Neptune. Photos courtesy of Deacon Nicosia

Youth from St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, collected two full pallets of diapers and $1,300 during a diaper drive for Child Care Resources of Neptune. Photos courtesy of Deacon Nicosia

By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent

When Child Care Resources of Neptune reached out to St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, asking for help with hosting a diaper drive for Monmouth County, the response was overwhelming.

Deacon Matthew Nicosia presented the idea to the parish’s youth ministry and sent home information to parish religious education families. The youth responded by coming up with a script and creating a YouTube video, in which eight students talk about the diaper drive. The corresponding campaign ran March 10-18, in the heart of the Lenten season.

“The diaper drive falls into our calling as Catholics,” said 15-year-old youth ministry member Eugenia Craggan, “because every time we are helping that person, we are helping ourselves, and we are doing it for God. During Lent, almsgiving is all about giving and helping others.”

Deacon Nicosia said the youth were receptive to the idea, as were parishioners, who were very generous. In addition, after he alerted fellow Monmouth County youth ministries about the campaign, they, too, pledged to help.

That generosity has added up to $1,300 from parishioners that will be used to purchase diapers as well as a collection of two full pallets of diapers, a donation of 15 cases from the Wegmans grocery store in Manalapan, and nearly a half-pallet of boxes from St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral’s youth ministry in Freehold. The donations will go toward CCR’s diaper bank – something that fills a very real need in a place where no similar support exists.

“Kids love helping kids,” Deacon Nicosia affirmed. “It’s a good social justice lesson for them. How many kids today know there’s this kind of need?”

According to Child Care Resources, there were more than 4,000 children younger than 5 living in poverty in Monmouth County in 2015. While infants and toddlers can use between eight and 12 diapers a day, costing nearly $80 per month, diapers cannot be purchased with federal or state aid. Ultimately, one in three families nationally struggle to afford diapers.

“For these reasons and others, it was evident that the need in Monmouth County existed, and a diaper program was essential,” Daynne Glover Child Care Resources assistant director, wrote in a letter to Deacon Nicosia.

The diaper bank has been in full swing since September, serving from five to 10 families per day. Each family is eligible to come once a month to receive enough diapers for their children for a week, plus one package of wipes per child. When first considering the idea of opening a diaper bank, Glover reached out to the National Diaper Bank Network, which supports diaper banks throughout the country.

“We had multiple conversations and emails about the best process,” Glover explained. “As a child care referral service, we see families coming in that have multiple needs, and one thing they consistently said was needed was diapers. And we identified that this was something we could take on.”

Reaching out to community organizations, schools and churches for assistance, the CCR diaper bank has been able to subsist on donations. While they have no corporate partnerships at this time, Glover acknowledged that was definitely something they would like to explore.

Youth of St. Thomas More Parish were eager to reflect on the meaning of their campaign.

“I wanted to help in the diaper drive because I knew if we worked hard enough, we would be able to help many families throughout our county,” said Craggan, adding that she was startled by the statistics of diaper needs.

Kyrie Gumina, 15, said she was also shocked by the facts as the youth prepared their campaign video.

“I never knew diapers were so expensive,” she said. “The fact that so many children must wear diapers for long periods of time and are exposed to dangerous health risks is disconcerting.”

Gumina said she “always felt called to help those who cannot help themselves, and this was a great opportunity to do that … I can only pray that what we have done will have made a significant difference.”

Potential clients can contact CCR directly or a community organization can contact the agency on their behalf, to receive diaper assistance during business hours.