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Helping mothers, one diaper at a time

Telegram & Gazette - 1/26/2020

When Lisa Bergman's friend was expecting twins several years ago, she remembers thinking about how much of a huge expense diapers would be – times two.

Bergman is the office manager at the Church of the Good Shepherd, in Clinton, where there is a WIC office, a federally funded supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children.

"I began wondering how the families coming in for WIC afforded diapers," Bergman said. "They are not covered by any WIC or SNAP benefits. Diapers are expensive. Children and families suffer if babies are left in wet or dirty diapers. Choosing between gas for your car or changing your baby's diaper is unimaginable and yet it happens."

Bergman, a longtime Sterling resident who has two daughters in college, was inspired to open a diaper pantry at the church for those in the area in need. The Diaper-A-Day Pantry, which opened in January 2016 and is sponsored by the Church of the Good Shepherd and Clinton Presbyterian Church, both in Clinton, and the First Congregational Church, in Boylston, hosts monthly diaper giveaways.

"Good Shepherd parishioners stepped up to provide diapers and monetary donations," Bergman said of the beginnings of the diaper pantry. "Ana Morel from Montachusett Opportunity Council and all the WIC representatives were very supportive. The diaper pantry started in part because WIC was here. It is a great partnership."

Word spread and donations poured in from businesses and organizations in the area, including Hannaford Supermarket in Clinton, Dr. Theodore Nelson's office in Lancaster, Clinton Savings Bank, Hometown Bank, Girl Scout troops and more. A woman from Sterling donates three large boxes of diapers several times a year, and students at Clinton High School collected and donated 10,000 diapers to the pantry as part of their spirit week last November.

"Countless individuals and organizations throughout our community provide ongoing support of the diaper pantry," Bergman said. "I love when people get the services they need. The diaper pantry is so helpful."

Residents of Berlin, Bolton, Boylston, Clinton, Lancaster and Sterling or Clinton WIC clients, are eligible to receive 30 free diapers a month for their children ages 3½ or younger. A short application is given to those seeking diapers and collects information including what size diapers are needed; the pantry stocks all different sizes.

On average, 1,400 diapers are given out each month, all of which are either donated or purchased with monetary donations. In addition to diapers, clothing and food is also collected to distribute to families in need.

"I am a bit of an organization and sorting freak so I enjoy bagging diapers, keeping records etc.," Bergman said. "But, by far what I love most is interacting with the families and kids. Some of the first kids we diapered have started school."

At first Bergman ran the diaper pantry by herself, but it quickly grew and now she is happy to receive help from three volunteers. Kathy Anestis, Anne Rossow and Mary Anne Ware, all parishioners at Good Shepherd, rotate shifts along with Bergman and ensure the pantry runs smoothly.

They recently received "a generous donation" that will enable them to help women, including school-age young women, afford menstrual supplies. It is called Project Period and will allow women to pick up a total of 10 tampons and/or pads each month. Bergman said she hopes to get some of the supplies to the Clinton middle and high schools.

"None of these projects would be possible without the unbelievable support of the parishioners at Good Shepherd," Bergman said. "It is an extremely generous parish; the outpouring is amazing. They have never turned me down when I've asked for help with an outreach project. Good Shepherd parishioners get it started and then this incredibly generous community we live in steps up and helps."

Bergman recalls a time when a mother came into the diaper pantry and said she had found out about it while she was at a WIC appointment. She told them that she had been praying about how to afford diapers. She was down to her last few.

"At every open pantry, families let us know how much they appreciate the help," Bergman said. "I hope the diaper pantry continues to help alleviate diaper need in our community and that the community continues to support the diaper pantry and the families it serves."

The Diaper-A-Day Pantry is open at the Church of the Good Shepherd on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and the third Tuesday of each month from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Families may choose one of those open pantries to pick up diapers.

For more information, contact Lisa Bergman at (978) 365-5169 or office@cgsclinton.org.

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