MILWAUKEE – There is power in numbers.
One-in-three families in the United States have trouble paying for diapers.
There are only three staff members at Milwaukee Diaper Mission.
Their small but mighty team is 93, 536 distributed diapers away from reaching their goal of one million.
All before celebrating their three-year anniversary.
“We’re really excited to hit that milestone,” said Meagan Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Milwaukee Diaper Mission. “Show the community the work that they’ve really done to support us and hit that goal.”
While teaching cloth diapering classes as a stay-at- home parent at the beginning of 2020, Johnson learned the harrowing statistics surrounding diaper equity. Hoping to make a difference, the Milwaukee Diaper Mission was officially launched on Sept. 21, 2020, operating out of Johnson’s garage.
“That (1-in-3) statistic really broke my heart, as a mom of two kids in diapers at the time,” she said. “Thinking about families that had to choose between food and diapers on a weekly basis was really devastating to me.
“I wanted to figure out a way that I could volunteer and give back to support those families.”
Prior to Johnson launching Milwaukee Diaper Mission, there wasn’t a local organization dedicated to diaper distribution. Milwaukee was one of the few major America cities lacking this critical resource.
“What started as, ‘I’ll volunteer my time once a week or once a month’ turned into ‘this vital resource doesn’t exist for our community,’ and I just felt really passionately about bringing it to life. So I did.”
Diapers are organized by size, then re-packed by volunteer groups into sealed bundles of 25. Local organizations that work directly with Milwaukee Diaper Mission then pick up the product to distribute directly into the community.
Additionally, Johnson is passionate about “dignity of choice” and ensures that recipients of these resources are still able to choose which type of diaper they want to use on their children. There is a room at Milwaukee Diaper Mission dedicated to re-usable cloths and washable period products.
“When we launched we called ourselves Milwaukee Diaper Mission because we were going to be a diaper bank and then I quickly realized that Milwaukee didn’t have a resource for access to period supplies,” she said. “So we added on a period program pretty much right away.”
More than 300,000 period products have also been distributed, on top of the over 900,000 diapers.
“People are interested in working with us and they maybe don’t connect super strongly to the diaper program, they can volunteer for our period program if they feel strongly about menstrual equity and breaking down stigmas about menstruation.
“Giving people access to the products that they need and deserve.”
An MVP Assist
When you walk through the front door of Milwaukee Diaper Mission, past the donation bins that are accessible 24/7, and snacks for volunteer drivers, there is a poster hanging on the wall. Pictured is Johnson, and to her left is Giannis Antetokounmpo and partner Mariah Riddlesprigger.
The soon-to-be parents of three, and Wisconsin’s unofficial first family, started working with the organization in 2021.
“(They) had just had their second child and were looking for ways to give back to Milwaukee that would support families with young children,” Johnson recalled of the relationship. “They learned about our organization and reached out and wanted to get involved.”
Their collaborative diaper drive, The Big Give Back, is now an annual event that raises money and awareness for the mission.
“The Antetokounmpo’s have been very generous with their time and their involvement. They’re just a sweet and generous and loving family that cares deeply about our city. We are fortunate as a small non-profit that we have their support and help shine a light on the work that we do.”
Following a 54-point performance in February of 2023, Antetokounmpo joked that he would eat 54 burgers from Culver’s to celebrate. “I trust Culver’s” he said.
Publicly, Culver’s offered the family free meals, and then added a cherry on top of the deal by donating 54,000 diapers to the cause.
Culver’s marketing manager Liz Haferkorn told WISN 12 “we wanted to make a big impact,” when asked about capitalizing on the unique promotional opportunity.
Connecting Culvers’ to Milwaukee Diaper Mission made national headlines, including a Sports Illustrated feature.
An “I Trust Culver’s” shirt featuring Antetokounmpo’s likeness hangs below the poster at the Mission’s entrance.
“It’s really fun when they come to our facility and volunteer with us and meet our distribution partners and other volunteers,” Johnson said. “People that we work with on a daily basis get to meet and work with the Antetokounmpo family.”
The ultimate goal is to end diaper insecurity and period poverty in Milwaukee. Johnson is determined to continue growing.
They’ve already filled the two-car garage where it all began, forcing a change of address.
Now, their 5,000 square-foot warehouse is feeling smaller, and they’re on the market for a place large enough to support forklifts and greater inventory.
“We’re increasing our impact every month.”
Get involved: MilwaukeeDiaperMission.org