EBC: Fulfilling Basic Needs for Local Families

The statistics regarding children in poverty are staggering:

  • 5 million children in the U.S. under the age of 6 live in poor or low-income families
  • In King County, Washington, over 22,000 children under the age of 18 are living below the poverty line
  • One parent caring for one preschool-aged child needs to earn $26.55 per hour to meet basic needs. The current minimum wage in Washington is $12.00

With statistics like these, it’s not hard to understand the dire straits that low- and even middle-income families are in trying to provide basic needs for their children.

So, where do parents turn to make ends meet? That’s the question that Karen Ridlon asked herself back in 1990. Karen, previously a Washington-based pediatric nurse, continually saw the large volume of parents coming into her practice with babies that didn’t have the basic necessities of life: adequate food, clothing, beds, or safety equipment.

Karen took it upon herself to do something. She founded Eastside Baby Corner in Issaquah, Washington. The organization started with Karen collecting donated items in her dining room to give to families in need. She reached out to family, friends, neighbors, and her church to spread the word about the types of items she needed. Agencies that Karen worked with as a nurse took the items to give to needy families.

As the organization grew, they were able to secure donated warehouse space to house the increasing number of items taken in. EBC (Eastside Baby Corner) hired its first employee in 2009, and now employs 14 employees. But the real engine of the organization is its volunteers. Volunteers contribute 2,700 hours of work to EBC, doing things like sorting the vast amount of donations that come in daily.

Those items now include almost everything needed to raise a child such as diapers, formula, basinets, toys, books, shoes, clothing, car seats, and other items. They get these items from a number of different sources.

First, they get item donations such as clothing, shoes, school supplies, maternity items, and books from the community. EBC currently has three donation hubs around the Seattle metro area (EBC Central Hub in Issaquah, EBC Northshore Hub in Kenmore, and EBC West Sound Hub in Bremerton) where people can drop off items.

senior women volunteers sorting clothing donations

EBC has also partnered with local businesses including Red Way Self-Storage and Marymoor Self Storage in Redmond to act as donation sites. These sites typically get from 5-20 donations per day, enough to fill a 10’ X 22’ storage unit to about waist high on a bi-monthly basis.

Adam Cimina, Manager of Marymoor Self Storage, says that it’s been a win-win situation to work with EBC. “Since becoming an EBC drop-off location, we have received multiple rentals and retail sales as a result of people coming back after they had donated to Eastside Baby Corner.”

Adam also commented that he loves getting to know the volunteers that pick up the items weekly, especially Betty and Alan, a pair of senior volunteers. Betty and Alan swear that doing these pick-ups is what has kept them alive the past 5 years.

EBC also partners with businesses, faith and community organizations, and non-profits to obtain donations. They also get items from groups and individuals that host community drives. Several area consignment shops also donate items.

A big event for the organization is their annual “Diaper Derby.” The Diaper Derby is a competitive race to collect diapers for babies living in poverty or crisis. Local businesses and community organizations vie to see who can get the most diaper, wipes, and dollar donations. This year’s contest collected more than 200,000 diapers!

Firemen with diapers collected

Through these efforts, EBC has been able to dramatically increase the number of kids they can help. EBC now serves more than 1,500 kids a month and is able to provide items not only for newborns and infants, but to kids up to the age of 12. Last year alone, EBC gave away over 1 million diapers.

EBC doesn’t directly deliver items to families in need. Instead, they work with qualified social service providers – 51 partner agencies in all – to provide items on an as-needed basis. Representatives from these agencies including case managers, nurses, teachers and others identify needy recipients. They then shop from an online catalog to order items, which they pick up and deliver to families.

The program reaches all manner of social services including numerous housing programs, family support programs, maternity support programs, access to services through schools, basic needs, and early learning programs.

Grace DeWitt, Head Start Family Advocate and ECEAP Family Support Specialist at Learning Land in Kent, Washington commented, “We serve homeless families and very low-income families with no other resources. Baby Corner diapers help our families to be able to focus on their jobs or going to school instead of worrying how they will give their child basic needs. Giving these diapers to families helps me to support my families as their Family Advocate.”

EBC staff with donations

Others echo that statement. Bessie Medicinebird, the Child Care & Services Program Coordinator for the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, says, “[EBC is a] great resource that allows for the needs of the children and families to be addressed. It also creates dialogue around safety needs of children.”

EBC also works with organizations that perform refugee resettlement, such as Jewish Family Service of Seattle. Emily Hoch, Refugee AmeriCorps Cultural Orientation Specialist, states, “As a refugee resettlement agency, many of our clients, if not most, struggle with finding stable sources of income during their first few months in the U.S. because they have to wait for social security numbers or employment authorization before they can start working. Being able to order child/baby items for clients in need takes a big financial burden off our clients and helps us at JFS provide more well-rounded services to our clients.”

If you’d like to organize a collection drive or event, visit EBC’s drive organization page.

About the Author: Derek Hines

About the Author: Derek Hines

Digital Marketing Specialist

Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Digital Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.