Eighteen-year-old Vanessa Perez is an Oakland mother who attends an online high school and lives with her mother, trying to scrape by with $350 a month in government aid. Perez says she easily spends half that on diapers for six-month-old Brandon.
"You have to buy what he needs and when you don't have a ride to get to any other stores, you have to go to Walgreens and it's more expensive there," said Perez.
It takes a mother to know a mother. Enter Lisa Truong, an Oakland mom and UC Berkeley graduate. Inspired by an Oprah show that featured struggling families, she contacted Bay Area non-profits helping low-income families to see what they need most. Their response was diapers.
Brighter Beginnings, which serves low-income families in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, has seen too many clients in a bind.
"You're left with sometimes making the choice between paying for your diapers, or maybe being late on rent, or utilities or something like that," said Karen Kern with Brighter Beginnings.
Juggling expenses is tougher than ever. Needy families are getting less help now from federal and state programs supporting them on everything ranging from formula to food.
"It was really just sad because as a mom, you want the best for your baby. You can't imagine a mom having to leave their child in a soiled diaper all day because she couldn't afford diapers, especially toward the end of the month," said Lisa Truong with Help a Mother Out.
Truong launched Help a Mother Out in May. The same month that the Bay Area's only diaper bank closed down. She harnesses the power of social networking to drum up donations. First, she helped local non-profits set up Amazon wishlists.
"People can go on Amazon any time of the day, point, click, and help send diapers to any number of agencies," said Truong.
Truong also uses Twitter and Facebook to promote roving diaper drives and permanent drop-off bins in the Bay Area. Her efforts have raised more than 60,000 diapers since May. One recipient is Claudia Aguinaga of Oakland, who picks up free diapers for her son Damien at Brighter Beginnings and is so grateful to be able to save the diaper money for her education.
"I'm just trying to finish school and go to college," said Aguinaga.
"It's a big help because it saves us money," said Perez.
Donation bins can be found at Baby Buzz in San Jose, Natural Resources in San Francisco and Sadie Dey's Cafe in Oakland.