LA Diaper Drive: A Medium for Change for Families in Poverty

March 6, 2013

Los Angeles Diaper DriveLA Diaper Drive is the second largest diaper bank in the country, and has the unique position of being the only diaper bank using diapers as an incentive for attending GED prep and life skills classes. LASVP connected with LA Diaper Drive through the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and the organization is now one of our investees. You can watch Caroline Kunitz’s prize winning pitch for LA Diaper Drive here.

LA Diaper Drive provides diapers to families that can’t afford them.  If that was all they did, they’d be providing a wonderful service to communities in need.  But the organization does more than that.  Their strategy for distributing diapers helps families across Los Angeles find ways out of poverty.  That strategy is what got LASVP’s attention, and it’s a big part of why we chose to invest in the organization.

LA Diaper Drive donates diapers to established nonprofits, and those organizations use the free diapers as an incentive to get parents into programs, classes, and workshops that will help them learn how to be better parents and improve the lives of their family.  Take, for example, Anna and David*, participants in LAUSD’s Homeless Education Program.  In high school Anna became pregnant, and her parents kicked her out of the house.  After their baby was born, she and her boyfriend David did all they could to keep up their education by taking turns going to school.  Eventually this became too difficult and they stopped going altogether.  The Homeless Education Program intervened, helping them find a more flexible school and offering diapers from LA Diaper Drive as an incentive to keep going to class.

Anna and David started going to school regularly. They got help from some other programs, too, including a “Christmas adoption” program through which another family gave them presents for the holidays. The young couple eventually graduated from high school, found work, and made their way out of homelessness. They even became strong enough as a family to give back to the organizations that had helped them—after graduation, they became Christmas adoption sponsors themselves, providing presents for a family that was in the situation they were once in.

This kind of life-changing result is what inspires LASVP to support LA Diaper Drive.  A diaper may be a small thing, but, as Board Chair Caroline Kunitz tells us, “a diaper can help you move forward or keep you down.”  By meeting this fundamental need in a creative way, LA Diaper Drive is helping to change lives.

*Names have been changed

You too can aid this amazing work by making a financial or in-kind contribution to LA Diaper Drive through their website. Thanks to connections they have made with generous suppliers, LA Diaper Drive receives free or deeply discounted diapers. $1000 given to LA Diaper Drive can keep 29 babies in diapers and 29 parents in classes for an entire year. That works out to be less than $35 for an entire year’s worth of service to a family.

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Celebrating SVP and Looking Forward to 2013

February 6, 2013

LASVPIt was great to see everyone at the first Partner Meeting of the year on January 31st. It was a good follow up to our New Year’s Resolution Party as we’re all looking for ways to share our ideas and talents to make a difference together.

We kicked off the meeting by taking a look at the highlights from 2012, including:

    • Welcoming 11 new Partners
    • Completing and gaining board approval for our new strategic plan
    • Approving our final reinvestments with GrowingGreat and Synergy Academies
    • Helping our 3 Investees strengthen their organizations and serve more LA-area residents
    • Successfully organizing and hosting our 5th Annual Social Innovation Fast Pitch
      (Watch the highlight reel.)

We recognized our Founding Partners for their years of dedication and support in building stronger communities with Los Angeles Social Venture Partners. We’d like to thank the following Partners for all they’ve done and all they continue to do to support LASVP:

Additionally, we recognized those Partners who have been part of the LASVP family for five or more years. Their continued commitment to LASVP and belief in the potential of Los Angeles is exactly what makes our Partnership great. Thank you:

We are also very proud to recognize Betsy Densmore as the LASVP Partner with the most reported volunteer hours in 2012! Betsy is a member of the LASVP Board of Directors, was the Lead Partner on the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, represented Los Angeles at the SVP Conference, and aided in recruiting efforts. But maybe the most amazing part is… Betsy does all this while living in Orange County! We are tremendously lucky to have such an outstanding and dedicated person in our Partnership.

Looking forward to 2013, we received an update about our Investees and opportunities for Partners to volunteer with them.

GrowingGreat is looking for Partners to identify 5 new schools to receive their healthy eating education program in the 2013-2014 school year, and to work with them on business development, school launch plans, and a long-term geographic expansion strategy. LA Diaper Drive is looking for connections to sources for diaper donations and aid with their governance and operating policies and procedures. With Synergy Academies, we’ll finish up the projects we have underway and support the ramp up of longer-term HR projects to make sure they’re well-positioned as we wrap up our investment in 2013.

We’re also very excited about our upcoming Education Investment Cycle! For the last two months, the Education Investment Committee has been doing some fantastic and fascinating exploration in the education arena of Los Angeles. Taking a look at STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Early Childhood Education, Advocacy, and Collective Impact, the team found a variety of opportunities for LASVP and shared their new knowledge with one another.  And, after some debate, they have recommended that for this upcoming cycle we should focus on a Collective Impact approach to issues in education. (See the slide deck for further detail.)

We still have several key questions to answer about how we’re going to make investments using the Collective Impact approach, but we’re excited to dig in and learn all we can. LASVP Partners can join the team anytime.

We’re off to a good start this year! We have some fun projects and interesting learning opportunities on the horizon. We have great people in our Partnership and we’re hoping to find more.  2013 is our year, SVP!

Partners Only: If you missed the Partner Meeting and want to know more, you can view the slides from the meeting here, take a look at the master calendar here, or contact Diane or a member of the Education Investment Committee with questions.


Investing in Potential: LA Diaper Drive

October 5, 2012

LA Diaper Drive is the second largest diaper bank in the country, and has the unique position of being the only diaper bank using diapers as an incentive for attending GED prep and life skills classes. LASVP connected with LA Diaper Drive through the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and the organization is now one of our investees. 

Since it was founded in 2005, LA Diaper Drive has been run out of Caroline Kunitz’s home, and the family’s two-car garage was the only storage space they had.  This was never the most convenient set up, but Caroline was willing to do what she had to in order to help mothers in need.

Caroline says that one of the most memorable days she has had at LA Diaper Drive is the first time a donation of 100,000 diapers showed up at her doorstep.  “At that point, we hadn’t even given away that many diapers,” says Caroline, much less tried to store that many all at once.  With no volunteers on hand, Caroline, her housekeeper, and the truck driver teamed up to haul all 100,000 diapers up the steep driveway and stack them up in the garage.  “We tried putting them in strollers and rolling them up the hill,” Caroline remembers with a chuckle.

Despite the space limitations, LA Diaper Drive has given away over 4 million diapers.  Thanks to a connection from LASVP, they look forward to giving away many more in the future.  LASVP helped LA Diaper Drive locate a donated warehouse space with a professional loading dock and staff, which will allow them to accept many more donations.  Before gaining the warehouse space, the organization was forced to turn big donations away.  Thanks to the connection from LASVP, LA Diaper Drive can finally unleash its full potential.

You too can aid this amazing work by donating to LA Diaper Drive through their website. Thanks to connections they have made with the larger community, LA Diaper Drive receives a 75% discount on diapers they purchase. $218 can keep a child properly diapered for a year, and $918 provides a full year of service to both the parent and child.


Passionate Philanthropy, Real Impact

October 5, 2012

LASVPIt was wonderful to see everyone at the Partner Meeting on September 24th. It’s always beneficial when we can come together to share ideas and challenge each other to think more deeply and strategically about our goals. As you’re probably aware, we’ve established our new strategic direction and we’re ready to take it to the next level.

Diving Deep…
Investment committee co-leads, M-K O’Connell and Alex Soschin, gave us a refresher on our new investment model and led us through the results of our most recent Partner survey. Based on Partner survey results and validated by discussion, our permanent social issue will be education. Education was far and away the number one choice of the Partnership, and it’s an area that we have always been passionate about. This is such an exciting choice for us since we’ll be able to learn deeply about the area and continue to collaborate with others in this field. Education offers us such a dynamic range of choices, undoubtably we’ll find compelling ways to make an impact. The next step toward moving forward is to hone in on a particular aspect of education for our 2013 investment cycle.

Keeping it Fresh…
The next challenge for us is to find the first issue for our varied social issue investment cycles. By first selecting a social issue to learn more about, we’ll be able to understand the space better when we begin to look for exciting and compelling organizations to engage with throughout a 3+ year investment cycle. The results of the Partner survey were a little more varied around this type of investment. We had strong support for the areas of environment, employment, and human services, just to name a few! Finding an issue to focus on, balanced with looking at specific organizations and the creative social entrepreneurs who run them, will allow us to be more strategic in our decision-making while still giving us a variety of possibilities to keep our philanthropy fresh. Keep your eye out for the next survey, Partners. We still have a little more work to narrow down our choices.

Transforming Los Angeles…
We also had the chance to hear from our Investee, LA Diaper Drive, about how they use diapers as a medium of change for children living in poverty. LA Diaper Driver founder and board chair, Caroline Kunitz, shared with us the potential for transformation present in their work, citing that when diapers are used as an incentive, enrollment in life-improving classes doubles and even triples. To date, they have helped over 25,000 families! And there are volunteer opportunities for LASVP Partners on the horizon. LA Diaper Drive is looking for help with Board Development, Program Evaluation, Branding and Marketing, and Building Corporate Relationships. Contact us to find out how you can help.

Connecting Passion to Progress…
We’re excited by the progress that’s been made so far and for the truly helpful feedback of our Partnership. As we discover the ways we can have an impact, we’re so glad we have the opportunity to join together with thoughtful people who are passionate about the future of our city.

If you missed the Partner Meeting and want to know more, there are several things you can do. You can view the slides from the meeting here, fill out the next Partner survey that will help us narrow the choices for our rotating social issue, contact Diane with questions, or contact co-lead Partners Elyssa Elbaz and Donella Wilson to find out about volunteering with LA Diaper Drive.


Why It Matters: LA Diaper Drive

August 28, 2012

Los Angeles Diaper DriveLASVP learned about LA Diaper Drive through the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch program. Caroline Kunitz pitched on behalf of the organization and LA Diaper Drive won th $20,000 Judges’ Award and the $20,000 LASVP Investee Award. Click here to watch Caroline’s awesome pitch!

When you hear about LA Diaper Drive, the first thing that comes to mind is babies. But when LASVP learned about the way that LA Diaper Drive operates, we realized that a diaper can be the key to helping an entire family.

Veronica* was in 6th grade when a teacher found out that she had been cutting herself. The school intervened to try and offer her the help she needed. They provided Veronica with counseling services, but they really needed to reach her mother as well. A busy woman taking care of several other small children, the school reached out to her by offering diapers donated by LA Diaper Drive as an incentive to attend family counseling. The much needed diapers got Veronica’s mother in the door, and she and her daughter began attending counseling regularly. Soon Veronica was able to overcome her self-destructive behavior, and began to thrive academically.

This is why LASVP loves LA Diaper Drive. Their partnerships with other organizations mean that every diaper donated has a dual purpose—to meet an immediate need for children in poverty, and to act as a tool to create lasting change. We’ve invested in their commitment to families in need by helping to secure warehouse space for the donations, collborating on their annual plan, and helping to prepare their annual budget. By helping our Investee to build its capacity as an organization, we’re unleashing their potential to have a wider and deeper impact on Los Angeles.

* Name changed

You too can aid this amazing work by donating to LA Diaper Drive through their website. Thanks to connections they have made with the larger community, LA Diaper Drive receives a 75% discount on diapers they purchase. $1000 given to LA Diaper Drive can keep 29 babies in diapers and 29 parents in classes for an entire year. That works out to be less than $35 for an entire year’s worth of service to a family.


Honoring Elegant Design: LA Diaper Drive

June 6, 2012

Caroline Kunitz is the leader and co-founder of LA Diaper Drive. She presented on behalf of the organization at the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch competition and won the $20,000 Judges’ Award and the $20,000 LASVP Investee Award. Pictured Clockwise from Top-Right are: Caroline Kunitz, Elyssa Elbaz (LASVP co-lead Partner for LADD), Donella Wilson (LASVP co-lead Partner for LADD), and Diane Helfrey (LASVP Executive Director).

Caroline Kunitz is a cheerful, energetic, and dedicated mother of two who saw others in need and decided to take action. Over the last seven years, Caroline and the team of volunteers at LA Diaper Drive have created the second largest diaper bank in the country and the only one that uses diapers as an incentive to get low-income parents into life-improving classes.  And on May 18th, Caroline was recognized by The C.H.I.P.S. (The Colleagues Helpers in Philanthropic Services) for her dedication and service to children and families in need.

In a letter from The C.H.I.P.S. president, Cara Leonetti Esposito, Caroline was informed that each year The C.H.I.P.S. honors an individual who “exemplifies the dedication and sheer determination to assist children and families in distress.” She went on to say that Caroline “epitomize[s] the very best qualities of an individual who assists communities which manifest a deep need, often for services and products that we take for granted.” And Caroline herself says that she once took diapers for granted until she learned that one-third of all mothers in LA are struggling to provide diapers for their babies. “I had everything going for me as a mom.  I had a supportive husband, was financially stable, had taken every class and read every book, and being a mom was still the hardest thing I had ever done. I couldn’t imagine also having to worry about if I was going to feed my baby dinner or put a diaper on her. I couldn’t imagine doing all this [parenting] work and having these concerns on top of it.”

Caroline’s dedication to creating change in the lives of low-income families was honored at The C.H.I.P.S. annual spring luncheon featuring the Michael Kors Fall 2012 Fashion Show benefitting the Children’s Institute, Inc. at The Montage in Beverly Hills. While Michael Kors is known for creating minimal, sporty, and elegant designs, the elegant design of LA Diaper Drive comes from its simplicity.  Caroline says, “All I have to do is get diapers and pass them on. I just need to get the diapers. The [life skills] classes are already there.” Success for Caroline and LA Diaper Drive means, “Getting diapers to kids and getting parents to the classes they need and really want to go to.” Caroline says that some of these parents are working two jobs and using the diapers as an incentive is the extra push that gets them into the classes they want. “They’re good parents who want to be better parents.”

Caroline ended her acceptance speech saying, “On behalf of tushies across Los Angeles, thank you for all that you do for low-income families in this city.” Well, on behalf of the future of families in Los Angeles, thank you, Caroline.

You too can aid this amazing work by donating to LA Diaper Drive through their website. Thanks to connections they have made with the larger community, LA Diaper Drive receives a 75% discount on diapers they purchase. $1000 given to LA Diaper Drive can keep 29 babies in diapers and 29 parents in classes for an entire year. That works out to be less than $35 for an entire year’s worth of service to a family.

If you would like to get involved in LASVP’s efforts to help LA Diaper Drive get to the next level, contact Sarah at sarah.hill@lasvp.org.  Another fun way to help is to attend LA Diaper Drive’s 1st Annual Poker Tournament on June 16.