The bottom line: A record-setting Operation Diaper Drive
After helping load 1,448 boxes of disposable diapers into a truck for distribution to families in need, Rhonda Tracy paused to explain why she volunteered.
"I know how much diapers cost," says Tracy, who has four grandchildren under age 5 and another grandson on his way. "People shouldn't have to choose between food and diapers. If we can make it easier for someone — that would be awesome."
The Weyerhaeuser Company's fourth-annual Operation Diaper Drive set a new record this year for donations of diapers and funds to buy diapers. At least 1.57 million diapers will be donated to World Vision and other nonprofit organizations for distribution in the U.S. and Canada.
Of those, 227,303 diapers, representing the 1,448 boxes, were collected at the forest product company's headquarters in Federal Way, Washington, down the street from World Vision's U.S. headquarters.
Tracy, a logistics coordinator, was one of about 60 Weyerhaeuser employees who volunteered April 7 to load a truck, joined by two dozen World Vision staff members. The group formed a bucket brigade that stretched from hallway to parking lot, completing the task in a brisk 39 minutes.
Tasha Hjelm, whose brother is married to Tracy's daughter, joined Tracy in the loading line.
"I was a single mom for many years," says Hjelm, workplace giving manager for World Vision. She called the diaper drive "very close and dear to my heart."
Demand for diapers far outstrips supply at World Vision's distribution warehouses across the U.S. Diapers are not covered by public assistance programs, so a new mom can't pay for them with food stamps.
To save money, babies born into low-income families may spend a day or longer in the same diaper, leading to health risks and potential for abuse because they cry more.
Weyerhaeuser collected diapers and raised money at all of its 80 facilities across North America and even internationally, says Cathy Slater, the company's senior vice president for cellulose fiber.
Fluff pulp is used to make disposable diapers, which makes Weyerhaeuser's involvement a natural fit. But Slater says the annual drive, the signature companywide event, is just one of many of its community-minded activities across the continent, wherever it operates.
"That's part of giving back to the community that's given us a chance to be there," she says. "Our employees all live in the community. I have an expectation that part of being a Weyerhaeuser employee is not just come to work and go home, but [to demonstrate to the community that] we're blessed. We want to make sure we pass that on."
Among a multitude of ways they raised funds for diapers, employees held bake sales and pancake breakfasts, washed cars, and threw balls at senior managers sitting above dunk tanks. In Columbus, Mississippi, mill Manager Allen Kirby fulfilled his promise to shave his head after employees there collected more than 100,000 diapers.
"It's pretty exciting that we are making a dent" in the need for diapers in partnership with World Vision, Anne Leyva, Weyerhaeuser's community investment program manager, told volunteers before the loading began.
"They are going to make sure that our diapers get into the families' hands," she says. "And they all stay local. I get the question asked every year, because when you think World Vision, you think global. They're going to stay in the U.S."
Dan Piesch, a specialist in global trade services at Weyerhaeuser, says all that is why he has volunteered every year of the diaper drive.
"It's really awesome to work with World Vision for a common purpose to help those in need in our community," he says, turning to load another box into the truck.