• Olivia Barclay

Diaper Diva

Updated: Sep 3

How Our Leader Pushed Through the Pandemic to Serve Even More Families

Please consider making a donation in honor of everything Ms. Cathy has accomplished in her first full-time year with WPADB.

As the WPADB celebrates its 9th anniversary, we wanted to share how our leader Cathy Battle has been transitioning in her first year full-time and how the vision for the organization continues to expand in response to the COVID pandemic, the needs of families in our region, and the continued rising diaper costs.

Many supporters know WPADB’s humble roots started back in 2012 when Pastor Philllip and Cathy Battle started diaper drives at New Light Temple Baptist church in response to their parishioners’ needs. That year they collected and distributed 16,000 diapers in Pittsburgh while a national movement was taking hold that would eventually secure support in the form of at-cost diapers from the National Diaper Bank. Cathy, known by WPADB regulars as “Ms. Cathy," became the volunteer leader of the organization, while still working full-time as a respiratory therapist and Pastor Battle continued to serve on the board of directors, wearing a number of hats, including his favorite position of networking and warehouse van driver. Nine years later, the organization serves three counties from two distribution hubs in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties under the direction of the now full-time executive director. Ms. Cathy is one of the few black women leading such organizations and has been recognized by the Jefferson Foundation for her outstanding efforts in the community. The WPADB is on track to distribute 2 million diapers and serve more than 10,000 families this year.

In 2020, it became clear that more families in our region were needing access to resources not covered by government assistance programs. One in three families was struggling with securing diapers for their babies and this was emphasized by the pandemic, which also made it harder to host in-person distributions. Under Ms. Cathy’s leadership, WPADB formed a partnership with Global Links to host four drive-by distributions, giving out over 400,000 diapers in Allegheny county. Through it’s first Go Fund Me campaign in 2020 the organization raised over $14,000, bringing new supporters to the cause.

WPADB was already expanding into Westmoreland county, having realized the need there. In the summer of 2020, with funding from the Hillman Foundation, WPADB hired an Outreach Coordinator to partner with Westmoreland Community Action Center. Anna Joyner is a Westmoreland native, and she and Ms. Cathy started a mobile distribution tour of Westmoreland, using Joyner’s own van to deliver diapers in rural parts of the county. By partnering with the Drug Overdose Taskforce, they were able to distribute 400 doses of Narcan along with 70,000 diapers. In November 2020, the Mount Pleasant hub officially opened to service Westmoreland and Fayette counties. Under Ms. Cathy’s direction, Joyner and a core group of volunteers have turned the hub into a community center, offering referral services and partnering with local agencies and even a staffing agency to offer on-site job registration in addition to childcare registration, clothing drives, and book giveaways. This summer alone the Westmoreland hub hosted 14 events in addition to weekly distributions directly to families.

Since becoming full-time last summer Ms. Cathy has also embraced education and training, joining a number of cohorts to help her become a stronger leader and position the WPADB for growth. She was asked to join the Social Venture Partners of Pittsburgh, which led her through a series of challenges including establishing a funding model, measuring impact, and goal setting which culminated in preparing a pitch for the foundation community. As this was wrapping up this spring, Ms. Cathy was asked to join the Bayer Center’s 3S program for nonprofit leaders, which helped her connect to larger banks in the area including the Milk Bank and Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank for practical discussions that enabled her to build contacts and cut down on supply costs. In Supporting Our Leaders, a 2-part cohort hosted by the Forbes Funds and Jefferson Foundation, she learned about different leadership styles and how to use each one depending on the situation. She’s currently enrolled in a Thrive Human Resources class, which has been beneficial as she hopes to expand the staffing to support WPADB’s growth. Ms. Cathy says that her biggest takeaways so far have been to embrace change, trust the process, and stay focused on the big picture. Her ability to adapt and form strategic partnerships has been crucial to WPADB’s expansion.

This mindset has enabled growth programmatically. While period products, incontinence supplies, and other baby necessities like wipes and bath products have been part of the partner agency offerings for years, a grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation enabled Ms. Cathy to formalize the WPADB’s Period Project, a period poverty advocacy curriculum, enabling the organization to distribute over 100,000 period products this year. A new partnership with YES offered period poverty advocacy classes and a three month supply of products for teens in Pittsburgh’s Earn to Learn Program this summer. Through four new organizations, WPADB is formally distributing period supply products and actively looking for new schools that need products and want to use the period poverty advocacy curriculum. Incontinence needs continued to rise with the pandemic as well, especially with vulnerable seniors unable to leave their homes. A new monthly distribution directly to apartment complexes is enabling the organization to get incontinence supplies into the hands of seniors with hopes to add more locations later this year and into 2022. While Ms. Cathy is focused on growth and sustainability, she remains very hands-on, directing a team of four part-time staff. On any given distribution day, she is working in the warehouse, helping fill orders, driving diapers to the Westmoreland hub, or whatever else needs done. She always has time for a volunteer or family who stops in requesting diapers.

What’s next for the WPADB and Ms. Cathy? She plans to review what she’s learned this year and work to apply it to the growing needs of the organization. On the list is staffing to support the two hubs, getting the Salesforce database more functional to accommodate the robust inventory system and new fundraising platform, and forming more partnerships for the WPADB Period Project and incontinence supply distribution. She’d also like to formalize the mobile unit to reach more rural families. With a growing number of inquiries coming from Beaver county, Ms. Cathy would like to expand north and hopes to eventually serve the surrounding seven counties. Unit diaper costs are up 14% from last year, which means the need continues to rise and WPADB is positioning itself to serve more families. Sustainably backed by the National Diaper Bank, Baby2Baby, and many generous community supporters, WPADB is the region’s only diaper bank.

Your generosity and our robust partner network will help us serve more than 10,000 families this year. Together we can make a difference!


Please consider making a donation in honor of everything Ms. Cathy has accomplished in her first full-time year with WPADB.

If your organization is interested in hosting a diaper drive for Diaper Needs Awareness Week (Sept. 27- Oct 3), please contact us at info@wpadiaperbank.org.

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