Moms, you’re well aware how overwhelming bringing a new baby home can be. There’s so much to learn. So much to buy too. And man, oh man—buying diapers seems to be a full-time job in itself. But have you ever thought about how many women in our Metroplex have a hard time providing that basic necessity for their child? Dallas organization iLookLikeLove is working to combat that problem. We spoke to executive director and founder Philippa Williams about how the organization is making a difference in the community and the challenges during COVID.
Tell us about iLookLikeLove. It started in 2015, but you really got moving in 2016, and now it seems to have really taken off. It actually started as a blog—which no longer exists—as I was working in a faith-based ministry at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Christian education. But after about two weeks, I felt like God said, “OK, it’s time to put some feet to this thing.” And we started doing some research on, where there were gaps, as far as the resources that were available to young families. And that’s how we came upon providing diapers.
So it’s basically a mobile pantry, is that correct? Yes, exactly.
How often do you go to the community? We [normally] have a monthly event called Diaper Day that’s on the fourth Saturday of every month. We’re starting back up again this March. It actually started with Dallas WIC back in 2017; we became a community partner with Dallas WIC. And so we started doing Diaper Day events, distributing through Dallas clinics. And we focused primarily in the southern sector of Dallas WIC clinics.
How did COVID impact your efforts? We were just starting our third year with WIC, and in March, when everything came to a hit for all organizations, we were forced to shut down and reassess how we were going to provide services. That prompted us to pivot and to make sure that we were still addressing our community.
So we actually started connecting with different locations, different organizations throughout the community to provide a Diaper Day experience at their location.
We’ve been at Park South YMCA in South Dallas. We’ve been there several times. Casa View Christian Church with Pastor Jayme in East Dallas—that particular community was really important. The teen pregnancy in that area is extremely high, so we knew the need was extremely great for that area. This month we’ll be at the Lancaster Recreation Center and March is slated for Red Bird Mall.
So tell us more about the need for diapers. Well, I call it the “overlooked essential.” It’s something that every family, if you have a new child, has as a prominent need. And we know that it takes up so much of a low-income family’s finances; about 14% of their take-home pay goes toward diapers. And one in three families in America struggle to maintain a sufficient diaper supply. Dallas, interestingly enough, has a history of being significantly higher as far as diaper need, almost one in two families.
And so with the research we were finding and then we saw there were really no organizations that were focusing on diaper insufficiency, we felt like this was a place where we could make a real impact.
One in two Dallas families. That’s shocking. Yeah. It was shocking to me as well because people aren’t having conversations about diapers. It’s not really part of the childhood poverty profile. When you hear about the drivers of childhood poverty, it’s not something that’s really discussed.
But when you’re at that point of having to make a decision—and this was pre-COVID—between transportation or food or utilities, or to stretch diapers (something that’s common for families who don’t have enough), it became a real touchpoint for us.
Did COVID mean more diapers needed? Prior to COVID, the highest number of babies served in a day was 156. And now with COVID, we’ve reached 302 babies served at one Diaper Day. Yeah.
Did your own story also inspire you to start this journey? Yeah. My mother was a single mother. I was a child of the ‘60s. And so, being a young African-American woman raising a little one then, the stigma was very intense. She had a circle of family that was very supportive, and I’m so grateful for that. But so many mothers do not.
I found myself as a single mom when my child was young. And it was the gift and the love of, sometimes, strangers who came to our rescue to help us with some of the essentials so I could make sure that he was a happy child, that he was a healthy child.
How did that impact you in other ways? What that did for me was to really bring home and make very real in my own life what it means to give unconditional love. People who—without judgment, without an agenda—availed themselves to me, as well as resources. And so I wanted to give back in that way in my own community.
And I’m a product of Dallas. I grew up in South Dallas, in Oak Cliff, went to Carter High School. I really wanted to make sure that the mothers that are in this community were getting something more. I mean, 14% is significant when you’re talking about your take-home pay. And if you just have something to help supplement that diaper supply, then that can be a lot. That can mean a lot.
Every little bit helps. So in 2018, iLookLikeLove served over 600 families and over 38,000 diapers were distributed. How has that grown since? Well, last year, we did a little over 104,000 diapers in the community for 1,037 families. So we definitely had a growth spurt. (Laughs.) Part of that was, of course, word of mouth and raising more awareness about diaper need. But our partnerships were very important in that. Because we’re mobile, we wanted to make sure that was part of the model.
Even now in COVID, we aim to have proximity to the need. Even our office is based in South Dallas so that we’re close to the impoverished communities who really need us the most.
Do you ever have people come from other areas of DFW? Yes. The one thing I have learned is when people need diapers, they will travel. They will get to where the diapers are. But it’s always important to make sure that we are addressing these very specific needs of those communities that are hardest hit. Being very strategic about that really helped us to explode as far as volume, making sure that we were connecting to the families who needed it the most.
What are some ways the community can get involved? Diaper Day events are certainly open to volunteers. And then, of course, donations are accepted. A diaper drive is a lot of fun. And because people are really looking for meaningful ways that they can serve, that’s something that we’ve seen an increase in. And of course, a financial or tax-free donation is certainly appreciated. People can also find out information on our website, ilooklikelove.org, or call 800/569-5897.
Image courtesy of iStock.