Oftentimes, when a new person takes the reins as president of Cloverdale’s Kiwanis Club they take on or continue a project that hearkens back to one of the club’s core missions. For some presidents, the project involves maintaining annual events, for others, like co-presidents Carolyn Talvitie and Julie Carter, it involves establishing a new club undertaking. A few months into their presidency, Talvitie and Carter created The Youngest Cloverdalian Project, a Kiwanis-backed initiative to help get diapers, wipes and other similar necessities to low-income mothers.
“When Julie and I were elected president, I told her that I had been thinking about this for quite awhile because we always help the children,” Talvitie said, referring to Kiwanis’ involvement with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which provides Cloverdale kids with a book a month from the time they’re born until they turn 5. “We help the grade school kids and then we help them into college, and we’ve always helped kids.”
Under traditional circumstances, the diapers and wipes collected by Kiwanis get dropped off at Cloverdale’s WIC location and are given out by WIC when mothers come in. Due to the pandemic, however, Cloverdale’s WIC office is closed and Kiwanis’ usual method of getting diapers distributed is out of the question. To make sure the need is met, Talvitie and Carter have taken it upon themselves to help hand out the items to those who may need them. Talvitie helps deliver the diapers and Carter organizes the ordering.
“Now what I’ve had to do is I’m trying to reach out to the local mothers — those with kids from birth to 5 years old,” Talvitie said. She put up flyers in the laundromat and in the meeting places of some neighborhoods, since WIC can’t give out the names of the folks in their system.
“I meet them at a certain hour and day, it’s usually a parking lot of the food pantry and they tell me what number (size of diaper) they need and I accommodate them,” she said, noting that as word gets out she’s receiving more and more calls. “For a while I wasn’t getting any and now … in two days time I helped seven families. Last night I went over and gave somebody who had twins something, and then the daughter of the lady who had the twins was expecting her first child as well.”
Reyna Flores, a representative from Cloverdale WIC, said that in February (when they were still open), around 26% of WIC’s Cloverdale clients received items from the program. She noted that The Youngest Cloverdalian Project brings in diapers of all sizes, from preemie to training diapers, which helps ages that may otherwise be overlooked.
Flores said that in February, they provided diapers for 55 infants and kids. In March, they provided diapers for 45.
“They’ve donated training diapers, so those have been excellent — so they’ve really covered an area that most parents aren’t really able to get a lot of help with,” said Flores.
Since the pandemic began, Talvitie said that she’s encountered more parents who have had difficulty finding diapers, though she’s perplexed by the temporary shortage, since “babies don’t wet any more than they did.”
“I always tell the mommies to keep my phone number — don’t run out (and get diapers) — because I’ve heard that some of these gals are leaving the babies in the diapers too long because they can’t buy them,” Talvitie said.
In addition to providing wipes and diapers, Kiwanis has been able to give out some additional items as well — Talvitie crocheted some baby items like socks to hand out and a special donation provided them with 20 bathrobes to give to mothers.
Flores said that in some ways, giving mothers items like diapers show them that the community cares.
“With the poverty level of many of the families that we help, they don’t really get to have a baby shower. This has been a way that we can show them that (Cloverdale) really cares,” she said.
When asked if the club needs donations of diapers and wipes, Talvitie said that with seed money designated by Kiwanis and a donation from a local couple, she predicts that it has enough materials to take care of diaper needs for 16 months. She added that they’ve seen some other donations coming in at a slower rate.
“If you ever want to feel good, just give a young mother some diapers, some wipies and a couple of baby socks — they’re so grateful,” Talvitie said. “It really makes you feel good to know that you’re helping somebody, and that’s really what keeps me going, is the response from these young mothers.”