Denise Shorter knows the difference that a pack of diapers can make. “For a young mother having to choose between food and other necessities, she might choose to keep a wet diaper on a baby a little longer,” she says. That can lead to diaper rash, urinary tract infections, and other health conditions that are expensive without access to health insurance.
And when a baby is sick, a single mother can’t go to work. When she does get to work, many daycare centers require that parents bring diapers with their baby. An already-stretched paycheck becomes thinner, leading to postpartum stress, emotional strain, and an endless cycle living in survival mode.
Shorter knows the difference a pack of diapers can make because she was that young mom. “I was a teen mom,” she said, “and access to diapers was limited. As I got older and met other women facing the same thing, I realized this wasn’t a teen mom problem. Anyone can end up needing help, regardless of age or background.”
That led to the creation of Women Empowering Each Other (WEE), a volunteer-based, community organization that provides resources and workshops increasing awareness of mental health issues and substance abuse for young mothers and other women.
WEE is one of nine local nonprofits being recognized by the Beatitude Foundation and GiveTLH, a community effort underwritten by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney. Each organization’s story will be shared in the Democrat, along with information about how you can help. Visit tallahassee.com/givetlh to learn more.
As Shorter began to meet other women in need, she learned that one in three families has a need for assistance with diapers, as they are not covered by WIC. “We created the WEE Care diaper assistance program to ensure that every baby has the basic need of clean, unused diapers,” she says. “When a mother cannot provide diapers for her baby, she feels useless, like a failure.”
But WEE goes beyond closing the diaper gap, offering personal development workshops about financial literacy and building healthy credit, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, relationship skills, and work/life balance. Meetings are available via Zoom on a nightly basis at 8:30 p.m.
The volunteer-led organization is currently participating in pregnancy and postpartum support groups through a partnership with Florida State University College of Medicine Department of Behavior Science and Social Health as part of a study to decrease health care disparities in postpartum care.
“I was once one of the people we’re helping, and when we go out to serve these moms and they have their babies with them, I know how hard it is,” Shorter explains with compassion in her voice. “I know they’re embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. Seeing the smile on their face makes me feel so good because I know any of us can be them.”
WEE relies heavily on small donations from individuals, local businesses, and churches. Donations are accepted at their office at 327 Office Plaza Drive and financial gifts are accepted online at womenempoweringeachother.org. “We have plans to add staff, serve more women and children, and expand our service area in the Big Bend,” Shorter says.
“People tell me it is too much, but I am personally invested in Gadsden and Leon County. Our goal is to become a diaper bank in North Florida. No mother should have to wake up worrying about diapers.”
GiveTLH honorees each receive a $1,000 grant from the Beatitude Foundation and a 12-month membership to United Partners for Human Services. After reader voting in November, the top three organizations will also receive grants in the amounts of $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000, respectively and a free registration and exhibitor booth space for the United Partners for Human Services Annual Conference. The first place winning organization will also receive $5,000 in services from BowStern Marketing.
The #GiveTLH series will culminate in November with a chance for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite profiled nonprofit. The stories will be compiled on give.tallahassee.com.
#GiveTLH, underwritten by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the conclusion of this series, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit that gets the most votes in an online poll. For more profiles, visit give.tallahassee.com.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: GiveTLH: Wee Care goes beyond diapers to provides resources for women