GALVESTON — Until recently, it hadn’t occurred to Kathy Modzelewski that low-income parents sometimes missed worked, school or job training because they couldn’t afford diapers for their children.

Day care centers — even free or subsidized ones — will turn away children if parents can’t provide a day’s supply of disposable diapers. Loss of work and a constantly crying, uncomfortable baby could lead to tensions, less nurturing and possible abuse. And mothers sometimes suffer from a phenomenon called diaper stress.

“I had no idea there was anything like diaper stress or diaper need,” Modzelewski said.

Babies born into poor or low-income families can spend a day or longer in the same diaper, leading to potential health risks, including severe rash and urinary tract infections, experts said.

Without an adequate diaper supply, parents can’t go to work and babies can’t participate in early childhood education, which jeopardizes their chances to develop cognitive abilities and language skills, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.

‘They do appreciate it’

In August, Modzelewski, an island volunteer, learned all about diaper stress while helping out at the Incredible Years program, a partnership between Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance and the Family Service Center.

In the fall and spring, the Incredible Years program participates in Galveston Independent School District classes for teenage parents or those who are expecting. The Incredible Years program is part of an initiative to improve parenting skills, which enhances early childhood experiences.

Modzelewski, through the alliance and Incredible Years, offered diapers in gift bags as incentive for parents to attend and complete the program, which also offers parenting classes through community groups on the island. Through such programs, Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance has given out about 5,000 diapers to parents. Modzelewski remembers how grateful the young participants were to receive diapers, which can put pressure on any budget.

“Some were teary-eyed ... they do appreciate it so much,” she said.

Making a change

Modzelewski began to research and understand how difficult it was for low-income parents to pay for diapers for their babies. Depending on age, babies need eight to 12 diapers a day at an average monthly cost of $100.

She was also amazed to learn that although low-income families rely on government support for food, housing and employment assistance, diapers aren’t an allowable expense for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — food stamps — or Women, Infants and Children programs. Diapers are classified with cigarettes, alcohol and pet food as purchases not allowed with food stamps.

“You can’t get diapers with food stamps, but candy qualifies,” Modzelewski said.

All the research ultimately led Modzelewski to launch what will be Galveston’s first official diaper bank, which works much like a food bank. The bank will collect, store and distribute diapers to families in need.

Initially, the diaper bank will work under the Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance. Modzelewski knew it would be a strain on the alliance’s budget to attempt to continue buying all the diapers, so she decided to ask for the public’s help and support.

Modzelewski said she hopes the bank will soon also provide diapers to be distributed through other organizations, including, Galveston Urban Ministries, which, among various programs, provides job training; and St. Vincent’s House, a nonprofit social service agency on the island. And she hopes the diaper bank ultimately will become self-sustaining.

A strong start

To help give Galveston’s new diaper bank a strong start, the alliance has enlisted The Junior League of Galveston County to help collect diapers at drop-off points across the county in that organization’s Pampers, Push-ups, Pajamas donation drive.

Hayley Hardcastle, membership vice president of the Junior League of Galveston County, said the diaper bank drive fits well with the group’s mission to develop potential for women. Hardcastle owns successful island business HH Design House, and her husband works at the University of Texas Medical Branch. They can afford diapers. But as parents of a 2-year-old daughter, they know buying them can be expensive. Hardcastle must have a supply of diapers at home and provide one for her daughter’s day school.

“It adds up quickly,” Hardcastle said.

Cloth diaper services also are expensive, Hardcastle said. And cloth diapers aren’t accepted at the vast majority of day care centers. For sanitary reasons, coin-operated laundromats often don’t allow customers to wash cloth diapers, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.

Bottom lines

Nationally and locally, the need for baby diapers is great.

In the United States, 22 percent of all children under age 5 are living in poverty; 34 percent of families surveyed had cut back on basics such as food, utilities or child care in order to purchase diapers for their child, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.

About 3,500 children age 6 and younger were living in Galveston during the 2010 Census. The Census doesn’t report poverty numbers for small age subgroups, but 39 percent of the total population of children younger than 18 lived in families receiving public assistant. If the percentage holds true for subgroups, about 1,360 preschoolers were living in families poor enough to receive assistance.

‘High levels of stress’

In July, Megan Smith, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, along with other authors, released a study about the effects the inability to afford diapers had on families.

“A parent’s mental health affects a child’s development,” Smith told Yale News. “High levels of stress and depression in a parent can be associated with low achievement in school and mental health problems that can follow a child for a lifetime.”

Erica Adams, executive director of the Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance, said there’s a strong connection between early childhood development and the ability for families to provide diapers for their babies.

From birth to age 3, children learn how to crawl, how to walk, what different words mean and how to interact with the world, Adams said. While diapers seem like a small thing, they are a necessity for children to access a broad range of learning opportunities, Adams said.

“Diapers are really a little thing that can affect the big things in a child’s life,” Adams said. “Having diaper security allows a mom to more fully and emotionally bond with their child, and a healthy child who has a clean diaper is more open and receptive to learning.”

Contact reporter Laura Elder at 409-683-5248 or laura.elder@galvnews.com.


At a glance

The diaper bank seeks diapers for infants to toddlers — all age ranges.

Contact Kathy Modzelewski at kathymod@gmail.com to donate to or learn more about the diaper bank.

Junior League Drive

The Junior League of Galveston County’s Pampers, Push-ups, Pajamas donation drive, which ends May 2, hopes to collect diapers, baby wipes, women’s gently used/new pajamas, bras and new underwear and men’s gently used/new pajamas and new underwear. Visit www.jlgalveston.org for information.

If you’d like a collection box at your place of business or organization, contact Sarah Hampton Cambas, provisional member of the Junior League at spcambas@gmail.com.

Drop-off locations for Pampers,

Push-Ups and PJ’s Donation Drive

Galveston locations:

Galveston County Daily News, 8522 Teichman Road

PattyCakes Bakery, 704 14th St.

HH Design House, 404 25th St.

O’Connell High School (contact 409-765-5534 for donation drop off).

Ball High School/Ball Prepatory School, (contact 409-766-5700).

Mainland locations:

Jack Brown American National Insurance Agency, 3032 Marina Bay Drive, Ste. 100, League City

Uniplex Office Suites, 1414 S. Friendswood Drive, Ste. 306, Building B, Friendswood

National Reliable Lending, 211 E. Parkwood Ave., Ste. 202, Friendswood

University of Texas Medical Branch Health, Ear, Nose & Throat Consultants and the Center for Audiology & Speech Pathology, 1600 W. League City Parkway, Ste. D, League City

Family Medicine, 2401 W. FM 646, Ste. C, Dickinson

Galveston Bay Foundation, 17330 state Highway 3, Webster

(11) comments

William Alcorn

I was amazed to see in your article that low income family's spend as much as $100 a month on a product that fill our land fills and is not reusable. I raised three boys and only used a disposable diaper for emergencies. When each child was born we started with five dozen cloth diapers we washed and reused them, as the child grew we adjusted the size to fit. The practice of throwing things away is a waste. Laundry supplies do not cost $100 per month and when the need is outgrown the old diapers are very handy around the house.

Kathy Modzelewski

Bill, I understand where you're coming from, but the sad truth is that disposable diapers are necessary these days. I was lucky enough to have a diaper service when my daughter was born (40+ years ago-yikes!).

Many day care centers require disposable diapers (not cloth) and many low-income families do not have access to in-home washers and dryers. Sad, but true.

Carlos Ponce

"[M]any low-income families do not have access to in-home washers and dryers" -very true. While mom had a washer and a dryer most of the time time I was growing up there were times I remember her using a washboard in the bathtub and a clothes line. Sometimes that clothesline was strung up inside the house during inclement weather. She bathed my younger siblings in the kitchen sink. You make do with what you have. Then again I grew up in the last century, 1950s and 1960s. Mothers knew what do do back then.

JBG JBG

I won't attempt to address why not, what if,...and why don't they, here. What I see from my prospective is two people,....Ms. Kathy Modzelewski, and Ms. Hardcastle and others,....who have elected to stand on the front line looking to help better society, by assisting those in society, standing in the need of such help.
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With all the crime, hate, unscrupulous behavior,...apathy,...and lack of love for one's fellow man being observed in today's untoward society,... it is so refreshing to see this kind of dedication,...sensitivity,...and compassion displayed by these women toward their neighbors!
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Their actions and deeds of assistance and love bursting forth, from their cultivated inner emotions, thoughts, and decisions, are contagious two others like myself,...who are standing in HIS number of the few,...who was called,..and progressed to the maturity place of being chosen also.
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Ladies I salute you, and I thank God there are still many men and women like you, who ARE BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING,...and who understand we came in this world with NOTHING, and it is certain,..we can take NOTHING out of it!
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So then I would like to close with Matthews 25:35-40:
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35) For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36) I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. 37) "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38) Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39) When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' 40) And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'
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This is the part where I would ask for an "AMEN" ....but I don't want to put nobody on the spot.

George Croix

It's a good cause, spearheaded by what must be good hearted people.
It's certainly not the child's fault that he/she may have to sit in their own waste for extended periods.
And I'd agree that unless one has a stay-at-home capability, re-useable diapers are no longer practical considering the logistics of modern life.
Note to prospective parents, though: This effort to assist them, or their own financial situation's ability to provide for their family, can be supplemented greatly by making a realistic assessment of how many children they can afford, and then acting accordingly.
It's one thing to be thrust unexpectedly into desperate financial straights, as so many have as the nation 'fundamental changes'.
It's quite another to put yourself there through your own choices.
Like all good programs that assist others, the ultimate goal should be to no longer need the program...

JBG JBG

Amen! I agree 132.1 1/2 percent! I even believe these ladies who are running this program would also agree with you Mr. gecroix. They inspire me, and make me proud to represent!
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Many in today's environment thinks it is an easy task to do good,,,it is NOT. There is a lot of work in coming to the point of being a giver, a doer of righteousness,...and a lover of humanity on a regular basis,...and to continually practice that caliber of behavior. An inner battle must be fought and won,...daily,...hourly! A man can LOSE a five second decision to his flesh/soul,...and spend the next FORTY YEARS in State Prison without parole,..or worse, be relegated to a six foot grave!!!!
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Inside every man is a King and a Fool! We did not invent Devils! We merely looked inside ourselves and WHAMO! There resided one! Not to be out done,...there also existed stuff Angels are made of,..however both cannot win! This is the battle,..the war inside all men is fought daily,...hourly, down to the last second of a man's life! The one who will triumph WILL BE THE ONE WHO IS GIVEN THE MOST ATTENTION
and support by the host.( The man ).
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There also is a spiritual system in place to systematically aid the FOOL of a man to STEAL, KILL ..AND DESTROY the HOST! So, we wrestle not with FLESH AND BLOOD, ...instead we battle Principalities, Powers, Rulers of the Darkness of this world, and Spiritual Wickedness in high places. ( along with our fallen soul/flesh ).
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Therefore Man is not the enemy of man, and the rich is not the enemy of the poor,...but because of the medium and mischief of spiritual wickedness operating in the unseen against us, efforts should be undertaken in learning how to exist and coexist with a SYSTEM....... ( Babylonian System)... detrimental to us and supported by these unseen enemies/forces!
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Psalms 103:7
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He ( GOD ) made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
There is the key to doing good today, and not only that but PRACTICING GOOD! There is the key to overcoming those forces against us "RAT" there! The secret,...is to become intimately involved with the operations and benefits of God. You don't get good to get God,...you get God to get good,..because without Him, you can do nothing. ( John 15:5 ).
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We should know HIM not just by what he does for us,...like the children of Israel,... but seek to know him HEART TO HEART,...enough to enter his HARVEST, using his powers and anointing like the great Servant Moses did!
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Ohhhhhh, I don't know...I might charge for this one! Hey,..I had to LEAN into this one!!! I got that from Mr. Manuel!!!! I LEANEEEE into this one. I'm out!

Gary Miller

With a free diaper service the number of people unable to afford diapers will multiply.
A diaper exchange system letting them exchange bling for diapers would be better.

Lars Faltskog

You know, IHOG...you actually make some sense with your comment, IMHO. One thing that I do have trouble wrapping my head around is why some folks feel that it's their given right to "fruit and multiply" even though they don't have the resources to do so.

Life is tough enough if you've got things in line in the 1st place (money, security), but add a spouse and 4 or 5 little tykes to your economic woes, and life can't be all that rosy. Don't know why folks don't learn.

JBG JBG

A man decides to allow himself to be so controlled by Satan that he takes after a lady with a hammer. Another fool goes on a military base in North Texas and promptly kills 4-5 American soldiers without batting an eyelash! Still another Old fool, goes after a four year old toddler in South Texas! Why? Have we not figured this out yet? Things are getting worse by the hour "WHAT?"
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What shall we do? Oh, I know,...the church should just do what they are good at and that is to keep hiding out in the Houses of God, singing songs making mission board announcements,...and in essence blaming God for allowing all this wickedness,...darkness, and sin,...to abound and proceed!! That about right?
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Wrong!!! Romans 5:20:
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Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
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II Corinthians 12:9
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"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
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Romans 5:20 emphasize that the Old Jewish Law, was not given to edify man,..but to magnify the sin of mankind,...and to illustrate plainly to all men that they are sinners, who could only be redeemed and set free from it by Grace and the free gift of righteousness coming from above (GOD)!
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II Corinthian 12:9
This verifies Romans 5:20 in a way, because it lets those same men know,...with that unmerited GRACE,......from God almighty, working "TOGETHER" ...that is God's strength coupled with "OUR" weakness,....together, we are "unbeatable" as that AFRICAN who use to play with the Houston Rockets use to say on a fast food commercial!
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Please note that I put emphasis on "TOGETHER" above! That means the church needs to come out of hiding and get it in gear!!! Poverty!!! A work of the devil!
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I use to be "PO!" That is a step down from being "poor" btw! When I found out who Christ was and the power of his resurrection, I could care less about becoming poor! It will never happen. Why should I worry, I send a great portion of my money to the mission fields of South America,...and Africa,...and NEVER run out of want! Ohhh yall don't hear me,...so that means you can never understand me!
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Even Old Job knew long ago,...what I'm saying today! So why is is so hard to understand today? Old Job said this:
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Job 1:21
"Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither.....!"
That is equivalent to:
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I Tim. 6:7
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it."
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JBG's 6th Law
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Nothing in this world really belongs to a man! He is just a steward over them for a while,....his grip on them is like grabbing smoke flowing through the air! However, next comes ACCOUNTABILITY .....for the type of stewardship we put in.

George Croix

Yes, one may live a life without being responsible, but everyone is going to be accountable at the end.

Ron Shelby

Good Idea. I'd never thought about that before.

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