Mother of 4 spearheading launch of diaper bank in Southern Utah

CEDAR CITY — An Enoch mother in the process of starting an extension of the Utah Diaper Bank in Southern Utah is working to spread the word about the new program. 

Jen Johnson talks about her efforts to launch a Utah Diaper Bank location in Southern Utah, Enoch, Utah, Sept. 20, 2021 | Photo by Jeff RIchards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Jen Johnson recently received a sizable shipment of disposable diapers from Utah Diaper Bank and now has nearly 10,000 stored in a shed behind her home.

Johnson said she’s hoping that will be the last shipment that she’ll need from the state-level bank.

“I want this to be completely self-sustaining, running just on donations from our local community,” she recently told Cedar City News.

Johnson works for Southern Utah University’s Head Start program as a family advocate and is also enrolled as a student at SUU. As she’s started to take on the diaper bank project, Johnson has already enlisted the help of a handful of fellow volunteers, namely her husband Jayson and their four children ranging in age from 4 to 11.

During one recent diaper drive, the members of Johnson’s local church congregation donated some 400 diapers to the cause.

Children of Jen and Jayson Johnson help out by placing stickers on bundles of diapers, Enoch, Utah, September 2021 | Photo courtesy of Jen Johnson, St. George News / Cedar City News

After the drive, the Johnson family spent time unpacking the diapers from the large cardboard boxes and rewrapping them into packages of 25 using industrial grade plastic wrap, then affixing stickers showing the size and other relevant information.

Johnson explained that repackaging the diapers into smaller bundles cuts down on waste and helps the donations reach more people. 

“Research has shown that the average need for a family is about 25 to 50 diapers,” she said.

As for the sizes that are most needed, Johnson said that most of the diapers she has in stock are in the medium size range (3 or 4).

“I’ve got a really low inventory of newborns, and we’re low on sizes 5 and 6,” she said.

Johnson said she knows how much of an impact diapers can have on a family’s budget, having once had three of her own children in diapers at the same time.

Approximately 400 diapers were collected during a church congregation’s diaper drive in Enoch, Utah, Sept. 14, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Jen Johnson, St. George News / Cedar City News

Often, a baby will grow to the next size diaper before they’re all used up, Johnson noted. A diaper bank enables people to donate those surplus amounts of diapers that their children have outgrown, as well as new and unopened packages to those in need.

“We try to to help people that need it most,” she said. “Mostly low-income families, but I know with COVID, everything has changed so much. Even though you might not technically be low-income, if you need diapers, please let me know. That’s what it’s here for.”

Johnson said that monetary donations are also accepted, which are put into a dedicated account from which bulk purchases can be made.

Johnson said Utah Diaper Bank director Vic Velivis has connections with diaper manufacturers. 

“He’s able to buy them at a much cheaper rate, so that money goes a lot further,” she said.

Johnson said she’s currently working on establishing and strengthening connections of her own as she works to build up the Southern Utah Diaper Bank.

Jen Johnson holds up an official Cedar City Council proclamation for National Diaper Awareness Week, Cedar City, Utah, September 2021 | Photo courtesy of Jen Johnson, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Right now I am just focusing on Iron County, but I have goals to eventually work into Washington County.”

For more information about Southern Utah Diaper Bank, or to either make or request diaper donations, call Jen Johnson at 435-363-5087 or via email at either [email protected] or [email protected].

“I’m just trying to get word out there so that people know that it’s here,” she added. “You can’t utilize the resource if you don’t know about it.”

In connection with National Diaper Awareness Week, which runs from Sept. 27 through Oct. 3, Johnson said both Enoch and Cedar City have or will be issuing official proclamations; additionally, Johnson is scheduled to make a short informational presentation at an upcoming Enoch City Council meeting. 

The Sandy-based Utah Diaper Bank, which started in 2012, distributed a total of 880,000 diapers throughout the state in 2020. It is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is part of the National Diaper Bank Network.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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