- Loan programs
LAKE FOREST, Ill., Feb. 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/
We often hear the expression to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" in an attempt to shift our perspective and stave off judgment of others whose experiences are different from our own. For Jan Leasure, Division President at Diamond Residential Mortgage Corporation, this became the living embodiment of her involvement with the nonprofit Keeping Families Covered. This organization works to provide families with diapers and other basic needs.
When Leasure met the CEO and Founder of Keeping Families Covered, Ann Marie Mathis, at a networking event, it just so happened that Leasure had been taking care of her infant grandson at that time.
"I hadn't changed diapers in a long, long time…and Ann Marie said something to me that really struck a chord," says Leasure. "She said that there were mothers…who were reusing disposable diapers because they couldn't afford to buy diapers for their family."
Ann Marie Mathis understood the challenge of caring for young children firsthand. As a mother of seven, Ann Marie identified the problems families faced with the blind spots of assistance programs and worked to fill the gaps to help families in crisis.
What initially began as a side project in her basement continued to expand along with the community's needs. While that mission initially began as providing lightly used clothes and baby gear to those in need, the organization's purpose has broadened to better cater to the community it serves. For example, Mathis repeatedly began to hear how much they needed diapers, so she pivoted the organization to provide that need as well.
"I think what we just continue to do is identify gaps that exist in communities and try to fill those gaps the best we can by expanding our programs," Mathis says.
Keeping Families Covered has grown exponentially since its inception, enough so for Mathis to transition from the corporate world to a full-time job, focusing on her nonprofit, distributing over one million diapers a year to families in need.
"It was about connecting families with the basics that they need to be able to raise their children safely and with dignity," said Mathis. "Being a mom myself, I know how challenging being a parent can be, and it's even more challenging if you lack the basics."
While learning about the organization, Leasure admits she didn't fully grasp the dire situation many families face when it comes to diapers. Although Mathis explained to Leasure that parents were reusing disposable diapers, she struggled to understand the hurdles already in place for so many of these families.
"My first thought went to 'Well, of course, they should just use cloth diapers that you wash,'" said Leasure.
Mathis described why cloth diapers are often not a feasible solution for many families Keeping Families Covered serves.
"There's a pretty significant upfront cost for cloth diapers, and you're talking about families who are already financially strapped,'' she says.
In addition to the financial costs, Mathis points out that even if these families could afford cloth diapers, often they have no place to wash them.
"Apartment complexes do not allow you to launder cloth diapers in their machines, and most laundromats don't either, so that's just not a practical option for the families we serve because most of the families that we serve are at or below the federal poverty line," Mathis explained.
"She really raised my consciousness on something like that," says Leasure. "I was in the throes of changing diapers every single day for my grandson. So the thought of taking those disposable diapers and trying to reuse diapers was pretty horrifying to me. That was the point I came on board and wanted to volunteer."
Both Jan and her daughter, Jade, volunteer and serve on the Board of Directors for Keeping Families Covered, working to spread awareness about the organization and the mission.
"I don't think this is a regular topic of conversation," says Leasure. "It took the mental image of a young mom trying to wash a diaper out in the sink and then dry it and put it back on her baby. That really was my aha moment."
While it may not be at the forefront of conversation for many, it's undoubtedly at the forefront for many families, only exacerbated by the pandemic.
"We saw demand for our program nearly double," Mathis says. "I think that COVID disproportionately impacted people who were already struggling to make ends meet, and that's what made our program so much more valuable to the community."
Keeping Families Covered continues to set new records for diapers distributed. In 2020, they will distribute 1.1 million diapers. In 2021, that number rose to over 1.2 million.
"I saw the growing need. I saw a way to make a difference. I saw a way to fill gaps that existed, and I just kind of went for it and never really looked back," describes Mathis.
If you're looking to contribute to Keeping Families Covered, there are numerous ways to do so. You can donate through the website, https://www.keepingfamiliescovered.org/donate, which allows for fiscal donations, or through Target and Amazon with instructions on the link above. You can also set up a diaper drive or donate to the one Jan Leasure is currently holding titled Hearts for Huggies, running through March 31st at her Libertyville, IL office.
SOURCE Diamond Residential Mortgage Corporation
[Source publication: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/diamond-residential-mortgage-corporation-division-president-partners-with-local-non-profit-to-keep-families-covered-301488711.html]