A question for Rachel Alston (’03), doing good through diapers

How did you realize that diapers were your way to make the most difference in your community?

My family experienced diaper need eight years ago when my oldest daughter was 6 months old and we were living on my husband’s student loans. I remember always feeling stressed about the high cost of diapering supplies and disappointed that SNAP benefits didn’t cover this necessary expense. In order to provide our family with some financial relief, we turned to the local cloth diaper service. The money that we saved could then be applied toward other household necessities such as food, rent, electricity, transportation to work, etc.

After relocating to Portland, I began researching community need as a first step in assessing what type of nonprofit I wanted to start. Since there is no government aid to assist families with the high cost of diapers, it didn't take me long to realize that diapers are not only a huge need for families, but other nonprofits as well. Diaper need is embedded in pretty much all family assistance programs, however, nonprofits typically don’t have the budget to purchase them. This is why PDX Diaper Bank serves nonprofits directly, with our services trickling down to the families they serve. PDX Diaper Bank currently serves 14 partner organizations such as teen parent programs and family shelters, with a waitlist of at least 20 organizations. Last year we distributed approximately 100,000 diapers to Portland families in need!

Rachel Alston (Human Services) is the founder and executive director of PDX Diaper Bank, which partners with community agencies to provide diapers to low-income families in the Portland area.