- Courtesy Of Gabe Aceves Photography
- Amanda Herzberger
Hundreds of boxes of diapers lined the walls of a warehouse on Williston Road in South Burlington, stacked nearly to the ceiling. Tuesday morning, a crowd of around 40 — including Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) — gathered there to mark a milestone: The Junior League of Champlain Valley, a women's volunteer organization that launched a diaper bank three years ago, has distributed 1 million diapers to Vermont families in need.
Amanda Herzberger, cochair of the Diaper Bank, described the genesis of the effort. In 2017, she said, a friend sent her a Forbes article about the need for diapers. She began researching and learned from Feeding Chittenden, the Burlington food shelf, that though many local families asked for diapers, no large organized efforts existed to provide them.
A grassroots diaper drive began in winter 2018 and collected 18,000 diapers. It has since ballooned.
Initially, the Junior League provided diapers to five local food shelves in Chittenden and Franklin counties. But over the years, it has received tens of thousands of donated diapers from the National Diaper Bank Network, Seventh Generation and Huggies. The fully volunteer-run diaper bank, which operates as a nonprofit, now distributes diapers to more than 50 local partners in 13 counties, including parent-child centers, Head Start programs, the Vermont National Guard and the Vermont Food Bank.
Gene Richards, director of aviation at the Burlington International Airport, offered an airport-owned warehouse to the Junior League at a deeply discounted rent. The University Mall in South Burlington has donated additional space.
One in three families struggled to afford diapers before COVID-19 hit, and the pandemic has only exacerbated that need, Herzberger said. Working with state legislators, the Junior League received $50,000 of pandemic-relief funding in 2020. The organization recently secured another $82,000, which will go directly toward purchasing more diapers.
In his public remarks, Welch — a cosponsor of a bipartisan bill in Congress that aims to increase access to diapers for low-income families — praised the Junior League's efforts.
"Every aspect of it is what makes me love Vermont, and what makes me love people who decide, if there's a problem, you know what — solve it, fix it," he said. "It takes empathy to begin with, but it's not just empathy. It's action."