Holly McDaniel, executive director of Austin Diaper Bank, helps the nonprofit distribute hundreds of thousands of diapers.
By Susan Johnston Taylor, Photos courtesy of Genie Short Photography
Holly McDaniel started as executive director of the Austin Diaper Bank—the nonprofit’s first full-time employee—last year, just days before Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast and flooded the Houston Diaper Bank facilities. That meant hurricane victims who needed diapers had to rely on diaper banks in Austin and San Antonio.
“We noticed our partners—people we serve normally—had an uptick in clients because people were displaced,” McDaniel remembers.
Brand new in the job at the time, McDaniel also recalls taking on some significant tasks early in her position.
“I barely knew where the restroom was,” she says.
But undaunted, she settled in and huddled with the organization’s board of directors to hash out a plan. Collaborating with Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio, the board agreed Austin Diaper Bank would cover the needs in Beaumont, Texas, and Houston, while Texas Diaper Bank would serve west of that area.
“We didn’t really realize the full capacity of what was about to happen,” McDaniel says.
Donations flooded in from throughout the country as people ordered from the diaper bank’s Amazon wish list and held diaper drives at churches, schools and in local neighborhoods.
For weeks, volunteers and board members unpacked truckloads of diapers. (In fact, one day, three UPS trucks unloaded box upon box of diapers.) All the while, McDaniel handled logistics, including finding trucks and drop-off locations and getting food donated to feed volunteers. All told, more than 300 volunteers helped with the organization’s Hurricane Harvey relief effort, with the community donating some 800,000 diapers.
McDaniel is no stranger to the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done mentality of the nonprofit t world. After graduating with an art-history degree from Occidental College in California, she held jobs at a variety of nonprofits, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation; KMFA 89.5 FM, Austin’s classical-music radio station; and Art Alliance Austin.
Raised by a single mom, McDaniel appreciates the need to support struggling families, some of whom may not be able to afford clean diapers.
“I had helpers and people who supported my family to move out and go do something different,” she says. “Without that support and the guidance from those people, I would not be where I am today.”
Austin Diaper Bank is a member of the National Diaper Bank Network, which reports that one in three U.S. moms suffer from diaper need. Austin Diaper Bank distributes diapers, wipes and personal-hygiene products through more than 50 partner organizations, including food pantries, women’s shelters and Meals on Wheels Central Texas.
Diapers are a cost “you don’t think about until you have children,” Mc- Daniel explains. She has three children, who are long out of diapers, but she’s not limiting her work to parents and grandparents because, as she notes, adults may also need diapers for various reasons.
Austin Diaper Bank’s impact has already grown under McDaniel’s leadership.
“In the past, we’ve typically distributed about 250,000 diapers a year,” she says. “This year alone, we are on track to distribute about 750,000 diapers.” The organization recently added a program coordinator as the second full-time employee. McDaniel says her focus in the next three years is to “cover more of the need and look strategically where our diapers are going.” Ultimately, her goal as executive director is to “help other families break that [poverty]cycle and see what their worth is.”
How you can help
- Money. Donating money is the most efficient way to support Austin Diaper Bank. “We have a partnership with Huggies where it costs us 13 cents a diaper to buy them,” Holly McDaniel says. “A consumer would normally pay 30 cents a diaper. We can order directly from the manufacturers and order multiple pallets at a time. They allow us to place orders once a month for specific sizes that we need.”
- Diapers. Austin Diaper Bank accepts diaper donations, even if the package is already open. “Everybody who has kids has half a pack of [size-specific diapers],” McDaniel says.
- Diaper drives. Diaper drives serve a greater purpose beyond the diapers themselves. “Especially if you’re teaching your kids philanthropy, it’s nice to do a diaper drive,” McDaniel says. “Diaper drives show kids charity in action and help raise awareness. The more people who know about us, the more people we can help.