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Social Impact Heroes: How Joanne Goldblum and the National Diaper Bank Network are providing hygiene products to poor women and young mothers

I remember the first time I was offered a major diaper donation from Huggies/Kimberly-Clark. They wanted to send me 250,000 diapers. Of course, I said yes immediately without really thinking, “where do you put 250,000 diapers and what does that even look like?” I didn’t have a garage at home, so I scrambled to find […]

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I remember the first time I was offered a major diaper donation from Huggies/Kimberly-Clark. They wanted to send me 250,000 diapers. Of course, I said yes immediately without really thinking, “where do you put 250,000 diapers and what does that even look like?” I didn’t have a garage at home, so I scrambled to find a warehouse space. On the delivery day, a semi-trailer full of diapers pulled up into the parking lot and the driver opened the trailer door. There they were, 250,000 diapers, boxed and stacked on about 25 wooden pallets. I assumed the drive would help unload them, but that was left to me and a handful of volunteers. We did have a pallet jack, but since I did not know how to use it — we had to breakdown the pallet and unload the boxes one at a time. I’ve learned so much about shipping, warehousing, inventory control and most importantly to always be prepared to just go with the flow when life throws you for a loop.


I had the pleasure to interview Joanne Goldblum, M.S.W. Joanne serves as chief executive officer of National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), the nonprofit organization founded in 2011. Under her leadership, NDBN has embarked on a mission of uniting and building the capacity of diaper banks throughout the United States, with a shared mission of addressing and eliminating diaper need, a devastating yet hidden consequence of poverty that affects 5.2 million babies age three or younger living in poor or low-income families. With its founding sponsor Huggies®, NDBN has distributed more than 220 million free diapers and wipes through its network of 200-plus member diaper banks located in communities throughout the United States. In her role as CEO, Joanne also directs the Alliance for Period Supplies, a program of the National Diaper Bank Network. Launched in May 2018 with the support of founding sponsor U by Kotex®, the Alliance for Period Supplies is focused on addressing period poverty in the U.S., and works to help get essential period products to individuals in need so they can participate fully in daily life. In its debut year, the Alliance for Period Supplies expects to distribute more than 8 million period products in conjunction with its allied programs, major national retailers and U by Kotex. Joanne is also the founder of The Diaper Bank of Connecticut, formerly the New Haven Diaper Bank, and she serves on the board of directors of FitHaven, Let There Be Light International as well as the International Association of Women Judges. Her work has been recognized by NPR, The Nation, Good Morning America, The Huffington Post, Time, People, and ABC World News Tonight, among others. In 2007, Joanne was named a Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader. She served as a clinical faculty member at Yale Child Study Family Support Service from 1998–2005. Joanne earned her B.A. from New York University and an M.S.W. from Hunter College School of Social Work.


Thank you so much for joining us Joanne. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I believe the basic needs of every person should be met. Hygiene products are often overlooked when it comes to supporting families. Not being “clean” and not having what you need when you have your period can cause you to feel isolated and cut off from daily activities. Providing people what they need is simple, and we can do that. We are the richest country in the world, and we have the resources to help people who have to stay home from work or school because they cannot afford the products they need to manage their periods. We can fix this.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I have been really lucky to have the support that I need around me. In 2004, when I first started what is now The Diaper Bank of Connecticut, people laughed at me. They said that helping struggling moms with such small things as diapers did not really matter. I just kept thinking to myself, “I know that we expect so much of moms, and when I thought of managing what I was doing — working and raising three kids — I knew that giving people diapers would make a difference in their lives. And whenever I feel frustrated and question the impact of what I’m doing, I remember small things matter. Today, that also mean small things like period products. Small things can help transform lives.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember the first time I was offered a major diaper donation from Huggies/Kimberly-Clark. They wanted to send me 250,000 diapers. Of course, I said yes immediately without really thinking, “where do you put 250,000 diapers and what does that even look like?” I didn’t have a garage at home, so I scrambled to find a warehouse space. On the delivery day, a semi-trailer full of diapers pulled up into the parking lot and the driver opened the trailer door. There they were, 250,000 diapers, boxed and stacked on about 25 wooden pallets. I assumed the drive would help unload them, but that was left to me and a handful of volunteers. We did have a pallet jack, but since I did not know how to use it — we had to breakdown the pallet and unload the boxes one at a time. I’ve learned so much about shipping, warehousing, inventory control and most importantly to always be prepared to just go with the flow when life throws you for a loop.

Where did you get the drive to continue even when things are hard?

I am fortunate to have so many friends, family, and colleagues who inspire me each and every day. Many are what I would call social justice warriors who focus on big policy changes and they are having tremendous success. Others are compassionate advocates making a difference in their neighborhoods and local communities. Some are people who lacked diapers for their babies or period supplies for themselves at one point in their life, and now are paying it forward to ensure no child, no family, and no person should like the basic necessities they need to thrive. These are all “my people” and when I get down, I look to them.

Can you tell us a bit about how your organization is making a social impact?

Raising the conversation about period poverty is a huge accomplishment. There are a lot of people and organizations talking about period stigma — and that is really important to address — but we are talking about how poverty in America impacts us all. People, who are fortunate enough to have money to pay their bills, meet their basic needs, and not struggle financially, often don’t think about something as small as a period product or a diaper as impacting someone’s life in a serious way. I am proud to play a part in that conversation. Plus, in May we celebrated our first year of operation, during which we distributed more than 10 million period products with the support of our founding sponsor U by Kotex and its retail partners. Today, we’re up to 17 million period products distributed, and that makes me happy to think about how many school days are uninterrupted, work shifts are completed, and periods are managed, because of the programs we are building and supporting together.

Period poverty is in many ways a hidden struggle, and it is certainly not being talked about enough in all of our communities. The Alliance for Period Supplies focuses on improving the well-being of individuals through three main initiatives:

  • Raising awareness: Bringing national attention to the lack of access to period supplies facing individuals in need through outreach to the general public and community leaders.
  • Strengthening community-based access to period products: Supporting the nationwide development and expansion of local period supply initiatives to help build capacity and capability to serve more individuals in need.
  • Generating and distributing donations of period products: Distributing period products to a network of community-based programs, thereby ensuring all individuals can access these essential needs.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

You’re certainly putting me on the spot here. One person? That’s hard. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but there is one person who really has helped and continues to help me each and every day. That’s my husband David. Back when I was working as a social worker in New Haven working with struggling families, I would tell him how I wanted to do something about all the basic needs — diapers, period supplies and others — they just didn’t have. He told me if I wanted to quit my job and do something about it, he would support me all the way. And when we started out and our living room and dining room were filled to the ceiling with diaper boxes and we needed to deliver them to agencies all over the city, he was always on board. That’s love.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Just keep going!! I always tell my kids — just smile, nod, and get the work done!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You never know who will be a donor, a supporter or even a board member! Seven years ago I went to a conference that I was on the fence about attending, and as a result of going there and meeting people I found someone who became an amazing board member and in fact served as out treasurer for four years!
  2. You can’t do it all on your own, delegate. This is an all too common issue for people who start something, be it a business or a nonprofit. Letting go of things you once did and letting someone else take charge is difficult.
  3. Strong people cry. — I cry. Sometimes happy tears, sometimes sad, and other times with rage. Crying is good. It helps us get to where we need to be.
  4. Humility doesn’t pay the bills. — I was raised to not brag, and I think many people who start nonprofits are like that. We don’t brag enough about what we do and what we achieve. We have shows on TV these days, like Shark Tank, where we expect someone from the business community to hype the product or service she is selling. Why should we expect anything less from the philanthropic community? Be your own champion and let others tell your story.
  5. This will be the best thing you’ve ever done, so enjoy the ride. Up to now, jumping into the diaper bank world, and now period supplies, have been amazing experiences, that I really never dreamed that I would do. Sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day operations of just getting stuff done, that I forget to step back and look at how far we’ve come. Diaper need is a real thing, and we’ve even had a U.S. President talk about how to end it. Period poverty is a real thing, and we’re offering a sustainable way of ending it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think life lesson quotes are bit like books…their meaning and relevance change as our lives change.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at The Fred Forward Conference at the Fred Rogers Center in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Renowned for his insight into people, Mister Rogers once said,

“How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us.”

People who live in poverty are no different than us. Their struggles may be different, but their needs are the same as ours. They want what is best for their children. They want a good life for themselves.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Ha! Then let’s go big. Oprah. She’s passionate, she’s caring, and she’s committed to improving lives. I would love to be able to sit and talk with her about our work and how she could help us end period poverty in the U.S. Doing so requires the ongoing collaboration and investment of resources by government, businesses, and the philanthropic community. She is connected to each and she is a true change leader

How can our readers follow you on social media?

For me personally, I’m at @jgoldblum on Twitter. For the Alliance for Period Supplies, more information is available at allianceforperiodsupplies.org or follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @periodsupplies, and @AllianceForPeriodSupplies on Facebook.

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