Necessity: the Mother of Invention and Virtual Diaper Drives

In times like these, the well-known saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” rings especially true. Great need is almost always the spark for an inspired product, process or service to meet that need.

Enter Collins Aerospace Avionics Technical Project Manager, Jessica Horaney. For the past five years Jessica has been a loyal volunteer at Women United, a program within United Way of East Central Iowa that unites funds and resources to ensure the well-being of Cedar Rapids area women in need.

This year Jessica is chair of the Women United Steering Committee where one of her main responsibilities is the annual diaper drive. People donate baby diapers to the Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank, where they can be picked up at no charge by families who need them. It runs like a well-oiled machine. Last year, the Diaper Bank gave out 17,000 diapers per month. That’s more than 550 diapers per day. But with the help of Jessica and Women United, the Diaper Bank was getting it done.

And then COVID-19 changed everything.

“Almost overnight, Cedar Rapids area women and families who were already at risk from social challenges and the hopelessness that lies at the foundation of poverty, became unemployed,” said Jessica. “Some women lost their means of transportation to pick up diapers for their children.”

Diaper requests skyrocketed. The diaper bank’s stock was quickly depleted. On Monday, March 23, the Diaper Bank distributed more than 7,000 diapers. In just one day. And with the government requirement for social distancing and quarantining, the hope that volunteers at Women United and the Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank were fighting so hard to build, was teetering on the brink of well intentioned failure.

And then necessity began to do its thing.

“It seemed like I was asking myself a hundred questions all at once,” Jessica reflected. “How can we prevent the collapse of these families? How can Women United and the Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank continue to do their work for society’s most needy women and families? How do we continue to bring disadvantaged women together with a distributor that is lacking product?

How do we get lots and lots of diapers to the distributor when no one is moving? How can we get diapers into the hands of these women without risking their health and the health of dozens of volunteers? What’s the key to unlocking success?”

The key was the moment necessity became the mother of invention.

And suddenly, Jessica was on a tear.

Using Amazon as a digital conduit—and to encourage social distancing—Jessica created a Virtual Diaper Drive. The Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank asked community members to make ‘virtual’ donations via an Amazon Wish List for community members interested in donating. All community members had to do was click a link contained in email and digital marketing fliers, and they were sent straight to the Amazon Wish List where they could send their donations.

Jessica’s virtual diaper drive has enabled The Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank to restock its shelves.

And Cedar Rapids area women and families in need have one less worry. Jessica summed up her experience by saying, “It’s just a great feeling to be able to help these families.”

Necessity … the mother of invention and virtual diaper drives. And the catalyst for one caring person with a big heart, the desire to make a difference, and the determination to make it happen.