By Kim Walter
After opening its doors three years ago, A Small Hand in Edinburg was just recently named a National Diaper Bank Network Community Partner.
Director Ann McBroom said she never expected to serve so many infants and families in Shenandoah County, but now knows the community needs the resource.
A Small Hand provides a week's worth of free baby materials to those in need. Diapers, clothing, formula and wipes are just some of the things parents can find at its location in the basement of Edinburg Christian Church. The pantry is unlike other traditional diaper bank in that it makes the supplies directly available to clients.
McBroom said the National Diaper Bank Network was started a little more than a year ago out of Connecticut with hopes of being a resource for distributions centers like A Small Hand. The organization recently named its regional, community and food bank affiliated partners.
Thanks to a generous partnership with Huggies, affiliate partners will receive some perks.
Once a year for the next two years, A Small Hand will get 250,000 diapers to distribute as a Community Partner. McBroom said the amount of diapers is worth about $60,000.
She said she hopes the gift will help give the pantry some solidarity in terms of finances. Even with a recently awarded $10,000 grant from the Shenandoah Community Foundation, A Small Hand still needs to raise a minimum of $30,000 this year.
The pantry has served 1,560 infant visits this year. McBroom said with those numbers, A Small Hand is on track to serve a total of 6,500 infant visits, and possibly more.
The fact that the small diaper bank is able to reach so many people was one of the reasons it was selected as a partner with the National Diaper Bank Network. Only two Community Partners were chosen in Virginia - the other being in Richmond.
"We're probably one of the smallest and most rural locations of the 15 that were selected from all over the country," McBroom said. "The NDBN would actually like us to grow to be a regional partner, and they're really interested in using us to find out how to do this sort of thing in such a rural setting."
A vast majority of the other selected partners are located in larger cities, she added.
Even though the present location of the pantry is small, McBroom said it was financially helpful because she doesn't have to pay for rent or utilities. However, she said she thinks a geographically centralized location may make more sense for the region's needs - either way, expanding will take much time and thought, she said.
The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday. McBroom said A Small Hand averages about 125 visits each week, but sometimes the number grows to 140 or 150. The goal is serve infants from birth to 24 months, but the pantry's director admitted that they step in and help in special cases.
"You have to think about the mother who moves here from another county and can't get registered for WIC or SNAP quickly enough," she said. "Or the children who have developmental problems or severe illnesses, and can't be covered on Medicaid until they're 4 ... we will absolutely try to fill that gap."
McBroom said she's learned a lot about the parents in the area.
"I suppose some people think we're just dealing with young, single moms or parents who aren't trying to better themselves, when in fact there a great number of parents who are both working and still can't provide enough to meet the needs of their family," she said. "We have learned a high level of respect for the families who come to us, because they deal quite splendidly with the tough times and situations. They are working hard."
A Small Hand hopes to fill any gaps in a child's nutrition or hygiene, McBroom said, since those essentials have such an impact on a child's future.
"We don't want any children to miss out because they didn't have the things they needed early on," she said. "We also hope to give the parents a break from the financial pressure ... we want them to be able to relax and play as a family."
McBroom is thankful that the pantry has as much flexibility as it does in terms of helping families, and credits the generosity and support of local foundations, civic and community groups, and individuals with keeping the valuable resource alive.
She also updates the pantry's website every month with the number of infant visits, supplies donated and the financial status of A Small Hand.
"There are times when I don't see how we can make it to the next month," she said. "But we somehow manage to pull through. As long as there is a need for us, I hope we can be here."
To learn more, call McBroom at 540-933-6313 or visit http://tinyurl.com/caluugo.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or email@example.com