They spoke a different language, but they understood the same basic necessity: a toddler in need of diapers to stay clean and dry. Karli Efron, Director at Michael Klahr Jewish Family Services (KJFS), recalled the conversation with a teenager of a family her organization serves.
This boy, the only one in the immediate family to speak English, sought a solution to help his toddler sister with overnight wetness. “He wanted to learn about cloth diapering for her at night and has taken on the responsibility of teaching his family how to use the cloth diapers,” Karli said. “Since swapping to cloth diapers at night, his sister is no longer leaking.”
KJFS serves vulnerable populations in Southern Maine regardless of age, race, religion, language, sexual orientation, disability or any other factor, striving to strengthen the individual, enhance the family, and protect the vulnerable with social services based on the values of gemilut chasidim (acts of loving-kindness) and tikkun olam (healing the world).
“We were the first pantry in the state to join the National Diaper Bank Network and begin mass distribution of diaper products throughout the Southern Maine community,” Karli said. “Greater Portland is currently in the midst of an affordable housing crisis as well as a limited job market and underemployment. Finally, Portland has an increasing number of asylum seekers – individuals who are on the path to citizenship, but cannot work and are not eligible for any social service programs (SNAP, TANF, etc.) until the appropriate paperwork has been filed and approved. This process can take as long as 200 days and families are 100% reliant on pantries and diaper banks for essentials.”
Karli grew aware of Jake’s Diapers through its mutual membership of the National Diaper Bank Network and saw an opportunity. “Before Jake’s – we offered disposable diapers and when we run out any given month, that’s pretty much it,” Karli said. “Since joining Jake’s Diapers, we have a long-lasting alternative for families interested in switching to cloth.”
KJFS and Jake’s Diapers teamed up in summer 2018 to begin offering cloth products to the people it serves and saw an amazing initial response. “I never imagined our diaper bank would look to cloth diapers as an alternative to disposable, but once I posted a sign stating we had kits and ongoing support available — families were incredibly responsive!” Karli said. “Jake’s has been a DREAM to work with!”
As of August 2018, six families were using cloth diapers thanks to the partnership between KJFS and Jake’s Diapers. Of those families, five of them would are classified as refugee families.
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