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Love The Neighborhood – a project of Service International
August 2, 2010 5:58 pm | by

I’m going to start out this blog post by telling you that we don’t often talk about things like this. I’m not exactly a “stick it out there so you can tell us we are doing a good job” kind of person. I know, the PR people are all shaking their heads in dismay. It’s not exactly the best promotional strategy. But it’s me. It’s my heart, it’s our company, we don’t like to talk about it and there you go.

Disclaimer over.

Have you ever wondered how you could make a significant impact on your local community using cloth diapers? I feel like we’re sitting on the tip of an iceberg right now. I’m so excited!! Jimmy and I are involved in something really exciting this weekend. Today, it took a really fun turn when I ran some numbers on the calculator. I wanted to share it with the rest of the cloth diapering community because, frankly, it’s fun, it’s easy, it’s exciting and it has the potential to bring some real impact to some families who really need it. I’m hoping that by sharing this story with you, we will inspire some other businesses, manufacturers or individuals to step up to the plate and have a positive impact on their local community.

As a little bit of background (so you understand the basis of our values), Jimmy and I are members of St. Louis Family Church, a non-denominational Christian church pastored by Pastor Jeff Perry. Pastor Jeff started an organization called Service International a number of years ago. Service International operates as a partner to our church. Service International is a community relief organization that follows the principle “Honor God, Help People”. From their website:

For nearly 20 years, Service International has been a force in the restoration of communities stricken by wars and natural disasters–at home and abroad. We provide what’s needed most when it’s needed: food, water, and essential supplies for immediate needs; volunteers, tools, equipment, and materials for rebuilding; and skilled medical and dental professionals to bring health and strength. But the greatest and most enduring commodity SI provides is hope. Simply put, Service International is not just about rebuilding houses–we are also about rebuilding lives.

Several years ago, Service International partnered with community leaders to reach out to a local St. Louis neighborhood in a way that would really bring positive change. Jimmy and I were involved in the outreach last year. Over 800 volunteers showed up. They gave the local highschool a facelift, assisted homeowners with some projects, cleaned up vacant lots, fed families, provided free dental care, created a safe atmosphere for the kids to have fun in for the afternoon and a stage of free entertainment for the day. On top of all that, they distributed almost 1500 pairs of high quality New Balance shoes and 1500 backpacks stuffed with school supplies appropriate for the school and grade level of each child. Jimmy and I (with Elsie on my back) had a great time painting the high school bleachers and serving hotdogs with the other volunteers.

On Saturday this weekend, Service International is headed back into that neighborhood. This year, they are giving 5000 pairs of shoes and 5000 backpacks loaded with school supplies to the kids in the neighborhood. A local business donated 12,000 pieces of clothing sized 6-9 months all the way up to a child’s size 16. Another business donated two pallets of disposable baby wipes and Cotton Babies got involved by donating five pallets of Econobum: Full Kits for the neighborhood babies. Over 1000 volunteers will be there on Saturday to make this event happen.

Service International was kind enough to supply 13 volunteers to work in our warehouses today to pack the pallets of diapers that are going out on Saturday. As they were packing, we did some quick math and realized that these diapers had the potential to save those families over $1,280,000 in living expenses if they were used by each family for two years. Did you read that right? $1,280,000 in living expenses!! That is enormous! Instead of buying disposable diapers, that neighborhood will have a collaborative $1,280,000 can go towards food for their families, paying the heating bills during the winter, or putting warm coats on their kids.

In addition to giving these families boxes of diapers, we will also be providing education to the families about how to prep the diapers, how to use them, how to wash them and the impact that this box of diapers could have on their family’s quality of life.

I don’t often share about things like this, but I think it is important that our customers know that the heart behind Cotton Babies is about strategic corporate growth for the purpose of giving back. My purpose in life is not to sell cloth diapers… my purpose in life is to make a difference in the lives of families around the world. This kind of a project is what keeps getting me out of bed everyday. It makes my heart pound. It plants seeds for bigger projects and hopefully inspiration to other cloth diaper manufacturers and other community growth projects.

Econobum exists so we can take a small burden off of a parent so they can focus on buying food instead of diapers. One less stress means one less fight. One less fight means one more hour reading with their child. Econobum came about because of that cause. Being able to make an investment in St. Louis, our hometown, is immensely meaningful to me. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I *was* that parent having that argument. We had to choose between diapers and groceries. It is a hard place to be in. A few months ago, I actually wrote about this as part of a blog post about respecting moms:

When we created the Econobum System, the goal was to take care of families who really can’t afford diapers period. Buying bumGenius would be nice – but it really just isn’t going to happen because, frankly, they just need to be able to feed their family. I remember all too well the days of having to choose between diapers and groceries. It’s a hard place to be and it just didn’t seem fair that there wasn’t a good, solid, one-size option for that family. Econobum is for you, momma.

This week, respecting moms means leaving my comfortable suburbian life, heading up to a part of St. Louis that I wouldn’t normally venture into and teaching some moms about how they can save $20 a week in their family’s budget. But we aren’t just telling them what to buy… we are GIVING them what they need.

Thanks for listening to me bare my heart today. I know that we’re not alone in our commitment to the community, to families and to babies. I hope this inspires some of you to find ways to give back to your local community.

I’d really LOVE to hear about what is happening in your community and how you are engaging in community development. It doesn’t have to be about diapers. Let’s make this about helping people. Share and inspire others!

About the Author

Jenn is the founder of Cotton Babies & creator of bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum, worldwide leading cloth diaper brands. She has four children (Andrew, Oscar, Elsie and Louis) and holds an MBA from Washington University. When she's not working full time, she enjoys teaching business leaders how to implement sustainable economic & social change.


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