Local family helps the forgotten needy
Desserts and diapers may sound a little, uh, disgusting, but the combination was just what James Skaug and his wife, Teri, were shooting for during a recent gathering.
The Skaugs, owners and operators of Chico Holistic Healthcare, are the folks behind the North State Diaper Bank, an emerging nonprofit organization whose mission is to help provide one of life’s necessities to needy residents. Last month, they invited friends, family and clients to a special get-together.
“We held a desserts and diapers party,” said Teri, a massage therapist. Her idea was simple: bring a bag of diapers and enjoy food and refreshments. The event was a good start to the Skaugs’ family project.
And ever since, the couple, along with their 17-year-old son, Joshua, have been busy soliciting donations of diapers and any diaper-related products—wipes, ointments, powders, etc.—and will continue the effort through December.
Arranged almost like presents under a Christmas tree inside of the couple’s business in a small building on Rio Lindo Avenue, dozens of packages of diapers awaited delivery earlier this week. James will transport the packages over to the Shalom Free Clinic—the nonprofit medical clinic that’s becoming the official distribution center over the holidays. The products will be given at no cost to qualifying families and individuals.
James noted that “safety-net” programs such as federally funded WIC and welfare do not cover the cost of diapers—products that easily can run in excess of $100 a month. The price tag is high for many low-income families, prohibitively so to those looking to place young children in daycare facilities. That’s because childcare providers typically require a month’s supply.
The scenario, James said, sets up a vicious cycle of poverty for those who would otherwise be able to work.
Of course, diapers are first and foremost associated with babies, but low-income elderly residents will also benefit from the good work of the organization. James said few senior agencies purchase adult diapers for the poor and unemployed, and that those in need live on extremely limited incomes—$700 to $800 a month, in some cases.
“They may seriously have to consider [choosing between] buying diapers and food,” said James, whose clients at the neuropathy and massage center include many elderly people.
Some actually have resorted to the unsanitary practice of drying out and reusing soiled products. The thought may be unimaginable, but it’s reality for many poor people. Meanwhile, children from needy families often wear one diaper for extended stretches, leaving them vulnerable to rashes and other health problems.
For now, the only sign of the North State Diaper Bank is a window sticker on an outside door of the Chico Holistic Healthcare office, which serves as “diaper headquarters.” But James is hoping other Chico businesses will step up to serve as collection centers. He thinks grocery and other retail centers would be a terrific venue, because shoppers could purchase the products on site and simply drop off the donations on their way out. He’s been shopping the idea around, but so far hasn’t had any takers. Individual diaper drives by churches, agencies and other organizations would help, too.
“This is strictly dependent on the generosity of others,” he said.
Joshua, for example, was the top collector years ago in a school contest when the Skaugs lived in Tucson, home of the Southern Arizona Diaper Bank, which claims to be the first organization of its kind in the nation. Northern California has at least one diaper bank (the East Bay Diaper Bank in Danville), but there wasn’t anything in the North Valley when the family moved here a couple of years ago.
In addition to diapers and diaper-related products, the North State Diaper Bank accepts cash donations. The Skaugs don’t receive any of the money. They donate all of their time, so 100 percent of the tax-deductible donations go to the purchase of diapers. James personally shops around for the best prices. He’s even willing to make house calls to pick up donations. Chico Holistic Healthcare takes donations on weekdays during business hours. The Shalom Free Clinic (1190 E. First Ave.) accepts donations on Sundays.
The public often contributes large volumes of donations to food banks and other charities around the holidays, and James hopes this year people will also think of this fledgling organization.
“Diapers aren’t really a high priority for anyone who doesn’t have infants or an incontinent senior living with them,” he said. “These are the forgotten people when it comes to the needy.”