Washburn sociology class answers community concerns with diaper drive

Putting words into action: Dr. Park and one of his students unload diapers at Community Action at the end of their Diaper Drive. Their efforts will help several needy families in Shawnee County this year.

Every year, families struggle with providing their children with some of the most basic necessities such as diapers. For one professor and his class at Washburn, it has become their mission to answer this pressing community need with an annual Diaper Drive.

Since 2018, students in SO-310, Social Class in the U.S. by Dr. Sangyoub Park, have been responsible for organizing the spring Diaper Drive annually to help needy families in Shawnee County. This year, the class teamed up with Community Action who received the donations that the students collected.

“When we first started, I didn’t think it was as big of an issue until really going deeper into it,” said Elayna Spivey, a sophomore in business finance and economics and data analytics minor.

Starting on March 15 and running to March 26, the Diaper Drive was created to answer the need for diapers in the local community.

According to the website developed by the class, 1 in 3 mothers face a shortage of diapers for their children. The website also describes this as a “hidden social issue” as many people do not consider diaper shortages to be a problem.

“Basically, one in three families have a diaper need,” said Spivey. “So to me, that was shocking. I put it into terms of, I know three families, one of those families have diaper needs that I never knew about.”

Single mothers and other struggling families are forced to rely on diaper stretching strategies that include reusing old diapers which can cause babies to develop infections and rashes.

Brailey Moeder, a senior forensic anthropology major who helped design the website for the class, said that the main purpose of the drive was to bring awareness to the issue.

“The main reason that we do this is to bring awareness to this issue,” said Moeder. “I would have never known because I’m not in that situation and I feel like even if you’re not in this situation, or even if you’re not in need of diapers at this moment, I think you should still be aware of the problem in society because it’s still affecting somebody.”

To raise awareness, the class created a website, a GoFundMe page, spread flyers across campus and local businesses, set up diaper collection boxes in the Union and Mabee Library and talked about the issue on their own social media pages.

They accomplished this task, under the guidance of Dr. Park, by splitting into three groups who were responsible for developing the website, running the GoFundMe page, and creating the flyers each.

Dr. Park has made the Diaper Drive a priority for his SO-310 class since 2018 and refused to let even the pandemic halt his student’s work. In years past, the drive would have included tabling in the Union and a more active presence by the students on campus, but the majority of the work had to be moved online instead.

The class did not succeed in reaching their desired goal of $2,000 on their GoFundMe page but did raise $725 worth of cash which, as noted by Moeder, is better than nothing.

But even though they did not meet the cash donations they were hoping for, they were still able to make people aware of the need for diapers and how they can help make a positive change.

“I can’t really say I would be upset without like… you can’t be upset because we didn’t raise our goal, we still raised money to help,” said Moeder. “So even if we didn’t reach that $2000 goal, we still got money that we could supply for kids. It’s better than $0.”

The class was successful in collecting nearly 2700 individual diapers during the spring which will go out to many of the needy families in Shawnee County.

“The main point of this new diaper drive is not just not collecting diapers and money; we want to raise the public awareness of this issue,” said Dr. Park. “I have 20 students, they now know the issue, they can educate others.”

At the moment, the GoFundMe page is still up but if people still want to donate money or diapers to help with this pressing community issue, they can reach out to Dr. Park at [email protected] or contact Community Action.

“I don’t think, for me anyway, it stops at the course,” said Moeder. “It definitely engages me and wants me to get involved more with the community. So the purpose doesn’t stop, but the purpose for the class stops if that makes sense. So, because the semester’s over we can’t really do anything more together, but individually, we can go on and use the resources that we gained from this experience and take it on further.”

To see the full history of Dr. Park’s SO-310 classes and their work to better the community, check out their website here.

Even though the class has ended and the students are moving on to new classes, issues like diaper shortages will remain and they can be changed for the better by students like WU.

“There are a lot more people out there, especially within the Washburn community that do need help with diapers,” said Spivey. “I know plenty of single mothers that are enrolled at Washburn and they need help. They may not look like it, they may not verbalize it. They need help, though, and why not? Why not?”

Edited by: Crystal Hendrix, Katrina Johnson