March 13, 2020

Bridging the Gap- The Healthy Bottom Line Diaper Program!

By Valerie Kelly

Choices for Children is a non-profit organization established in 1976 that provides childcare solutions for families, children and childcare providers throughout California. Offering a range of services such as resources and referrals, first aid, nutrition support and subsidized childcare. A notable program among those is the Healthy Bottom Line Diaper program that supports families in need of diapers, wipes, formula and other essentials. 

The Healthy Bottom Line Diaper program received its initial grant in November 2010 and officially launched in January 2011 due to an increased need of diapers for local families. CFC staff found that families would often come in during extreme need before the program was officially in place. The efforts to fulfill those needs acted as a bridge for families who were often short on funds at the end of the month.  

Heather DellaRipa, Subsidy Program Manager, had identified a strong diaper need in the community and had written a grant to the El Dorado Hills Community Foundation for an emergency supplies closet. The closet included other necessities such as wipes and formula.  

The Healthy Bottom Line started off as a quarterly program focusing on addressing emergency needs that eventually grew into a monthly program. Each month, families will receive a pack of 16-20 diapers depending on the size of the child. With larger families, packages of wipes are split up between every two children.  

Families are then tracked monthly and are given community service referrals. Additionally, CFC provides resources on how to find quality childcare and other community resources. There is also an option at the time to add themselves to the waiting list for subsidized childcare services. 

“We provide them the first steps in getting to know CFC while also providing them with additional resources. They can grow with the knowledge in the other things we have to offer,” says DellaRipa. 

DellaRipa is the spokesperson and grant writer for the program, developing the grants each year. Individually, she keeps track of overall spending and is responsible for purchasing supplies. As a team in the office, they decide how many diapers are dispersed, what kind and how much formula they need, as well as how the grant dollars and donations are spent. 

“We rely on community agencies to refer people to the diaper program, from doctor’s offices to police departments. It’s a place people are beginning to rely upon.” 

There are many similarities between the Healthy Bottom Line in Tahoe and its cousin, the Diaper Drive on El Dorado County’s Western Slope, which is organized by Stacy Smithee.  

“We’re a mountain apart, so we run an entirely separate program,” says DellaRippa. El Dorado County’s Western Slope hosts their diaper drive around Labor Day and the Tahoe area of El Dorado County does their drive around Mother’s Day.   

The Lake Tahoe office relies more on community donations and connections with pediatrics offices and childcare facilities in town, which really helps with the donation bins and has been very successful. This past year was especially productive, donation wise. The diaper drive brings awareness to people who may not otherwise be familiar with it. This has resulted in donations year-round. In addition to regular grant funding from our Community Foundation, The Soroptimist Foundation and Kiwanis Club are both consistent donors to the program.. 

“Applicants are required to live in the Tahoe Basin area, but there is no specific income qualifier, we just want to get a bigger picture of who they are,” DellaRippa emphasizes.  

Funding is provided for the program at the end of the year for each year following. 101 unduplicated families (families who have come for assistance at least once) were served throughout 2019 and in those families included 122 children! There were 56 new families. On average, CFC serves 12 each month. As the program grows, families come and go, but at certain times of the year there are as many as two to three walk ins per day. 

To make donations, donors are encouraged to go to the South Lake Tahoe or Cameron Park CFC office where there are year-round drop off sites. Please call 530-541-5848 or 530-676-0707 for further information on donations. 

Because the diaper program was such a success and so well supported, DellaRippa reports that she did not have to ask for diaper funding this past year. Instead, she created an initiative for winter clothing for kids ages 0-5 as providers had reported that children were in such dire need for warm clothing during the winter months. The grant is Lake Tahoe focused: collectively, they managed to raise $2k, in addition to holding a clothing drive for grant applicants!  

Physical donations are more often donated in lieu of cash to the Tahoe program, which differentiates itself from its El Dorado cousin that tends to receive more monetary donations.  

Donation boxes will be available throughout Lake Tahoe from May 1st through May 31st. If you’d like to schedule a donation drop off, please give our Lake Tahoe office a call at 530-541-5848!