Helping the Bottom Line

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Alida Scott changes the diaper of her son, Anthony, at No Bottom Left Behind in Johnstown last October. The organization is looking for donations to keep its supply of diapers and baby products available. (The Leader-Herald/Patricia Older)

JOHNSTOWN — Victoria Yusko was a 20-year-old single mom struggling to afford diapers for her infant son.

“It was demoralizing,” said Yusko. “My experiences with diaper needs 26 years ago were similar to the issues still plaguing low-income families today. Nationally, one in three families are reported struggling to afford diapers.”

So, in 2015, with her own money and resources, Yusko started the Johnstown-based No Bottom Left Behind, a Capital Region diaper bank that serves thousands of families each year.

“It was a grassroots, kitchen-table initiative and it grew from there,” said Yusko.

Yusko said nationally, an estimated 5.3 million children younger than 3 live in low-income households.

“Access to diapers, which on average cost $70 to $80 per month, per child, can be difficult,” said Yusko. “There is also a stigma attached to not being able to provide the most basic needs for our children. It’s embarrassing to say ‘I can’t afford diapers.’”

The Women, Infants and Children program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program help bridge the gap between poverty and access to food, but they don’t cover diapers.

“Families are left to figure out the dilemma on their own,” said Yusko. “Programs like day-care assistance subsidies created to pay for childcare cannot be maximized to the fullest potential because daycare requires diapers in attendance with your child. No diapers — no daycare. A parent ends up missing work due to the lack of diapers. This puts the parents in a situation with a reduced paycheck and possibly losing their job.”

Yusko said she remembers all too well the struggle she endured while raising her son, working and meeting their needs.

“There were times when I had no other option but to call in sick at my work having to commute 50 miles round-trip. I was left many times between choosing my son without a diaper or put gas in my vehicle to go to work,” said Yusko. “What did that mean for me? It meant I couldn’t go to work and I risked losing my job. I found myself struggling to make ends meet. I found myself rationing diapers. For me it meant isolation, embarrassment and planning our day based on how many diapers I could budget.”

Yusko said what made it even more difficult was there were no organizations that addressed the issues she faced.

“When I was a young mom, organizations like No Bottom Left Behind diaper bank did not exist, but thankfully, today they do,” said Yusko. “We are at the helm of a movement that seeks to educate the public about diaper need and to provide low-income families across the Capital Region and 14 surrounding counties with access to clean diapers so they’ll never be trapped the way my son and I once were.”

She said the nonprofit’s newest goal is to develop emergency diaper packs for emergency personnel and first responders.

“I’d like to develop mini packs for emergency personnel such as police and fire departments,” said Yusko. “Something very simple and compact.”

Yusko gave the example of a young mother with a young child still in diapers whose home burned down.

“This mom had just lost everything in a fire and her and her child were already traumatized, and that child had to sit in a dirty diaper for hours,” said Yusko. “If an emergency diaper pack was available, that mom could have changed her child’s diaper.”

Yusko said her goal is to outfit fire departments with the small diaper packs. They would be housed in a closet, and any emergency personnel could pick them up to carry in their vehicle.

“We’d like to outfit each fire department and create a closet with the packs available,” said Yusko. “Then the mini packs could be put in the trunk of the car, ready for use.”

Yusko said people can help by donating money, diapers or baby care products.

“Cash donations are greatly appreciated, as well as in-kind such as diapers and rash ointments,” said Yusko, adding the organization needs larger-size diapers especially. “The size 5, 6 and pullups are in extreme demand and what we are running low on,” she said.

Noting NBLB is a nonprofit group and donations are tax-deductible, Yusko said NBLB is an all-volunteer organization that runs strictly on donations.

“Every dollar goes right into the nonprofit,” said Yusko. “No one is being paid. Please support me and donate to help grow our nonprofit organization once again to assist in providing for over 30,000 needy babies alone in the Capital Region with diapers, wipes and rash ointments. Your donation will assist in the purchase of much-needed additional warehouse shelving, purchase of 30 pallets of diapers, a sign for the diaper bank, pallet jack and assist in the operational costs of the organization.”

People who need diapers can go to the No Bottom Left Behind Facebook page.

By Patricia Older

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