$6,500 diocesan grant
buys 250,000 diapers

In 2019, William "Buck" Sykes, back to the camera, and George Parker, standing on the forklift blades, prepare to unload a semi full of diapers. The two are volunteers with Love Unlimited, Norfolk, a partner agency of the Greater Hampton Roads Diaper Bank. A $6,500 grant from the Diocese of Richmond’s Respect Life Office will purchase 250,000 diapers for the bank. (Photo provided)

Respect Life Office backs work of Greater Hampton Roads Diaper Bank


When one is a new parent, little things mean a lot.

Not only little moments and little milestones, but also all of the little necessities. Like diapers.

“It’s a need that is easily overlooked, something many of us take for granted,” said Herbert Erb, coordinator for the Greater Hampton Roads Diaper Bank. “But that makes a big difference to families who are struggling.”

The Greater Hampton Roads Diaper Bank is a non-profit organization founded in 2012 by Cher Leadbeater, a parishioner at Holy Family, Virginia Beach, and a member of the New Creation Charismatic Catholic Community in Chesapeake. Its mission is to collect and to raise funds for the purchase of diapers, which it distributes through its more than 35 partners throughout Hampton Roads, including Hope 4 Life, Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia and Church of the Holy Family.

This year, the Diocese of Richmond’s Respect Life Office has given the organization a $6,500 grant for a bulk order of diapers, enough to fill an 18-wheeler truck.

“That’s 250,000 diapers,” Erb said. “It will go a long way in helping families. We’ll need a lot of volunteers to unpack it all. With COVID, we’ll have to tackle it in small teams.”

Necessity, not luxury

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, a network of independently-run charities across the country of which the Hampton Roads bank is a member, one in three U.S. families report that they have difficulty purchasing diapers.

The Greater Hampton Roads Diaper Bank receives orders from social service and religious organizations for about 45,000 diapers a month, Erb said, and is usually able to supply 36,000 diapers toward fulfilling those requests through diaper drives and collections.

He said that one of the challenges the organization faces in its efforts is that many people see disposable diapers as a luxury rather than a need.

“’Why don’t people just use cloth diapers?’” Erb said. “I hear that one a lot. Well, you can’t take cloth diapers to the laundromat. And if you are a working mother, you can’t drop off cloth diapers at daycare. Many daycares will only accept disposable ones.”

Those who live in food deserts and who lack transportation to get to larger stores also face difficulties in obtaining diapers, Erb said, leaving many families with no other option other than to buy them at convenience stores, where the cost is generally higher.

The bank collects diapers not only for infants, but also for those whose needs sometimes go even more unseen — older adults and people with disabilities.

“There are a lot of older adults out there who are also in need. Some are on Medicaid, but if you are on Medicare, these kinds of things aren’t covered. So it’s a great help to those on a fixed income, to those who are financially-distressed,” Erb said.

Dignity for very young, very old

Located in Chesapeake, the Greater Hampton Roads Diaper Bank is a nondenominational organization, but because it operates under the auspices of the New Creation Community, Deacon Bob May, who serves at Holy Family and is prayer moderator at New Creation, said he was able to help the bank apply for the diocesan grant last June.

“We try to do what we can to help them out because it’s such a worthwhile venture, designed to help those on either end of the spectrum of those who seem to suffer the worst when it comes to issues of human dignity — the very young and the very old,” Deacon May said.

It’s the third time the bank has been awarded a grant, he said, the last occasion being in 2018.

Diocesan grants are made possible by an annual collection taken up at parishes each January to mark the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. The grants, which have been made available since 1975, are given to organizations and causes that promote the dignity of human life. Applicants must be either Catholic parishes or other organizations within the Diocese of Richmond.

Increasing awareness

News of the grant arrived in August, just in time for National Diaper Need Awareness Week, to be held Sept. 21-27 this year.

It’s a week set aside by the National Diaper Bank Network to raise awareness for their cause and to promote their lobbying efforts, such as advocating for the elimination of state and local sales taxes on purchases of diapers.

“The diaper bank provides a definite need to the community,” Deacon May said. “We think the world of them and their service to families in Hampton Roads. We don’t have to share the same pedigree to walk hand in hand in projects like this. God delights in bringing people of different backgrounds together to work on a worthy endeavor.”

To learn more about the GHRDB, visit their website at http://www.ghrdiaperbank.org.

Scroll to Top