By the end of this week, Jesse Sheldon hopes to have collected more than 100,000 diapers for infants and toddlers in need across the Inland Northwest.
The fourth-annual diaper drive is happening at Walgreens drug stores and Trading Company groceries through Saturday.
What makes the Inland NW Baby effort so impressive is the story behind it: Sheldon is a Central Valley High School senior who four years ago turned the melancholy of his grandmother’s death into an inspiration to help others.
Dee Clott died of breast cancer after 10 brave years. Her kindness, optimism and perseverance imprinted on her grandson. And so did the Time magazine subscription he inherited from her.
Sheldon read one of the magazine’s stories about a woman who started a diaper bank in New Haven, Conn. The story told of a woman in a public restroom who watched as a mother came in and removed the diaper from her baby, washed it off and put it back on the baby.
He began to study the issue, gathering local information and talking to other organizations that help poor women and children.
He learned that many women could only get about 12 diapers a month from an agency. So they spent day after day riding the bus – baby in tow – trying to meet the most basic of needs.
Sheldon was struck by the struggle and settled on one irrefutable truth: “It’s not the baby’s fault.”
“This organization is about supporting babies,” he said.
Inland NW Baby, he hopes, can become the Second Harvest of diaper banks for the region, noting the success of the region’s food bank.
This fall Sheldon is set to attend the University of Washington. He plans to study business, specifically entrepreneurship and marketing.
While he’s in Seattle, his mom, Julie Sheldon – an unsung hero who helped Jesse Sheldon at every turn – will run the organization until another young person with the right mix of commitment, compassion and hustle can take over.
“I’m a believer that you’re never too young to make a difference,” Jesse Sheldon said. “I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a big dreamer. I never let anything get in the way.”
Sheldon has earned local and national recognition for his project. But he hasn’t let it go to his head.
“Just knowing that I have maybe helped just one child have a better day through what we’ve done has made it all worth it,” he said.