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#OTGYpsi: Providing baby care supplies for those who can't afford them in Washtenaw County

Each week, WEMU's Lisa Barry checks in with On The Ground Ypsi's Sarah Rigg to talk about one of her online Concentrate Media stories being published that week. They talk with Emmeline Weinert from Ypsilanti's Hope Clinic about two Ypsilanti nonprofits creating new solutions of support for those in need of baby care products in the community.


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: Two Ypsilanti nonprofits create new solutions for clients' baby care needs

Hope Clinic

Hope Clinic Food Pantry

Women, Infants, & Children (WIC)

SOS Community Services

Arbor Woman


Lisa Barry: This is 89 one WEMU, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Lisa Barry, and, each week, we check in with Sarah Rigg, the project manager for On the Ground Ypsi, to talk about one of her online stories being published by Concentrate Media this week. Sarah typically brings a special guest with her to share more about that story. So, hi Sarah, and what are we talking about? And please introduce who else is joining our conversation. 

Sarah Rigg: So, my editor and I both noticed that some local nonprofits in Ypsilanti are offering more or different kinds of baby care items. And I have brought with me Emmeline Weinert, the food program manager at Hope Clinic. 

Lisa Barry: Hi, Emmeline. Thanks for joining us.

Emmeline Weinert: Thank you so much for having me. 

Lisa Barry: Are we seeing a change in need for baby products in the community? 

Emmeline Weinert: You know what? This is actually something that Hope Clinic has been working to provide for the community for some time in partnership with Arbor Woman and some other partners in this work. But it continues to be a really high need. If a family doesn't have the supplies that they need to care for an infant or young child, it can really impact the ability of other members of the family to go to work, to go to school, and, of course, it impacts the life of that child. So, we're really happy to be able to provide diapers, wipes, formula, baby food as well as connection to other services. There are social work department and our very dedicated volunteers. 

Lisa Barry: How could people find out what's available and where? 

Emmeline Weinert: We have special pick-up days at Hope Clinic on Tuesdays from 12:30 until 2:30 and then Wednesdays from four until six p.m. And it coincides with our pantries, so folks are encouraged to make a pantry appointment. Our food pantry is really like a small, free grocery store where folks can shop. You leave with about eight bags of food, including produce and meat and milk and all that kind of stuff, as well as other non-food groceries like toilet paper, dish soap, that kind of thing. But then at the same time, you can talk to one of our very knowledgeable baby care volunteers, who are also helpful to give, you know, nutrition information and help you find the right size diapers and wipes. And often, we have clothing and toys that we can give out as well. If those times don't work for people though, we always have emergency baby care supplies available at the front desk of Hope Clinic. So, anytime during sort of normal business hours, nine a.m. to five p.m., folks can come and get some diapers and wipes and formula, because we really don't want there to be any barriers to folks getting what they need for their family. 

Lisa Barry: I like the term baby care volunteers. Tell us about those. 

Emmeline Weinert: Yeah, I'll admit. Occasionally, baby care volunteers think they're going to get to come and care for a baby, they want to come-- 

Lisa Barry: Right. They want to hold one. 

Emmeline Weinert: Yeah, exactly. And I've always have to, like, disappoint them to be like, "No, you're going to be packing diapers and um, you know, chatting with folks about formula, different brands and what they might need." But, no, our volunteers are wonderful, are really happy to talk with folks about safe sleep for their child or getting them connected to WIC, or, you know, all sorts of different things because we want to be that wraparound care for our clients. 

Lisa Barry: It seems sometimes that might be just as important to have someone to talk to about all of this and as well as get some supplies. 

Emmeline Weinert: Oh, absolutely. I would say it happens actually more often than you might think that somebody comes in, you know, just to pick up diapers. And then we chat with them and we learn about other underlying issues in their household or things that they're struggling with. And, you know, just to have someone to talk to for a few minutes, right then who can really take the time to chat and if they want to also to pray. But then we're also able to make those connections to our medical clinic, to our social work program. So, we never, you know, send somebody away without their needs met. If we can't take care of it right then and there, which often we can, we're going to make sure that we follow up very soon to take care of their needs. 

Lisa Barry: Speaking of needs, can you talk to us a little bit about the needs of women and babies and infants and children in Washtenaw County? I think a lot of people think it's a a very rich community. And what is this need? Tell us about it. 

Emmeline Weinert: Yeah. So, a lot of families do struggle to get the basics, and there are programs like WIC where people can get supplies. But we know that the high cost of living in Washtenaw County often means that folks are struggling to pay their bills and buy the things that they need, but are also not income eligible for some of those programs. So, programs like ours at Hope kind of help stand in that gap. So, just to make sure there's easy, accessible supplies that folks can get, but that also then we can connect them to these other services that hopefully can help them long term. But, even for some families, you know, work is not sufficient. They need additional assistance beyond that. So, we can kind of be a supplement as well. 

Lisa Barry: For people who may not know, WIC stands for... 

Emmeline Weinert: WIC is Women, Infants and Children. It's a state-run program to provide nutrition, particularly to that vulnerable population.

Lisa Barry: Sarah, who else did you talk to, or what else do you write about in this week's story? 

Sarah Rigg: So, I also talked to Ann VanZomeren, who is one of those volunteers that volunteers at Hope, and she's been doing that for five or six years and has lots of stories about the needs in the community. I just wanted to make sure that it's clear here, too, that SOS has been offering baby care items for a while. But what's different is the collaboration with Arbor Woman and moving the baby care items under the food program, and Emmeline was telling me that that's because of visibility, so people may come in for food and say, "Oh hey, I can get a onesie for my baby or wipes or formula as well." So, then I also talked to S.O.S. Community Services. I spoke to Barbara Cecil, who's their development director, and they've just launched a diaper pantry. So, again, they have been offering diapers all along, but only a limited amount. And now, they're having a separate diaper pantry and really putting out a call to the community for different businesses or churches or organizations to run diaper drives, so they can give out more to families. And one of the other things that I learned while I was reporting on this story is that, uh, that diapers really add up. It can be expensive. And it can be a barrier to employment. If you rely on childcare and you don't have sufficient diapers, that can mean that you miss work. So, it was really an important issue. And I think one that's been overlooked sort of in favor of what people know about food pantries, but don't realize that some of these organizations are also providing other materials that help people stay employed and get back on their feet. 

Lisa Barry: I'm curious. When you talk and write about diapers, are we talking about cloth diapers, reusable diapers, or disposable diapers? Or was that part of something that you found out while writing this story? 

Sarah Rigg: I talked to them about, you know, what about cloth diapers? And, really, that's problematic. A lot of times middle-class people have an easier time with cloth diapers because they have services that come and take them away and clean them for them. And, also, sometimes low-income people might live in an apartment that doesn't even have a laundry on premises. So, it's very difficult to do cloth diapers. So, we are primarily almost exclusively talking about, you know, plastic, disposable diapers. But then also other baby care items as well. 

Lisa Barry: I feel like we ask this question every week. Emmeline, back to you. How has the need changed during this pandemic? Has it been noticeable? 

Emmeline Weinert: Yeah, it's definitely been a tough time. Before the pandemic, we were really happy to offer classes and support groups and, like, safe sleep was such an important one for someone who was about to have a baby. There are so many questions they have about what you can and can't do, and it's been really difficult to provide some of that additional information. So, we've had to pivot multiple times. I know that's like the word of the last year and a half is pivot. Um, so we've had diapers be more available at our front desks. It's easier to hand out. And as Sarah was sort of mentioning, we've been trying to make these programs more visible by co-locating them with other services that we're providing so that people really understand what's available and are able to access it. Since some of the sort of more natural networking that we were doing pre-pandemic, you know, folks seeing each other and being out in public, we haven't been able to do. So, actually, we really appreciate you helping us to get the word out. Um, because that's what have been our hardest things is letting the community know we have these resources. We've got a basement full of diapers right now, and we want to give them to you. We want them to be in the hands of families who can use them. 

Lisa Barry: Do you have to meet certain qualifications? 

Emmeline Weinert: Nope, we have no qualifications. If you say that you need help, we're going to help you. So, you can just show up, like I mentioned during those times Tuesday afternoon, 12:30 to 2:30, Wednesdays four to six. If you just show up at the Hope Clinic, we're on five one eight Harriet Street on the south side of Ypsilanti. We are going to send you home with some items. 

Lisa Barry: Emmeline Weinert from Hope Clinic and Sarah Rigg from On the Ground Ypsi. Thanks to both of you for joining us with this information here on 891 WEMU. 

Sarah Rigg: Thanks, Lisa. 

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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