Inland NW Baby puts children first
Ron Shine and Julie Elkins are making diapers their No. 1 priority.
“When I first came in, I thought it’s just diapers,” said Shine, Inland NW Baby’s new program manager. “It’s not. There is a lot to it.”
Shine and Elkins started working for the diaper bank in September when the organization’s founder left for college.
Jesse Sheldon founded Inland NW Baby in 2010. He graduated from Central Valley High School in June and now attends the University of Washington. He plans to stay involved with the organization, however, as president of the board. His mother, Julie, who had directed day-to-day operations, moved to Las Vegas in November.
“I feel like it’s become mine,” said Elkins, who is now the operations manager. “I’m putting my heart and soul into it.”
Shine and Elkins are volunteers, working an average of 25 to 30 weeks for Inland NW Baby.
“I’m in it because I want to be in it,” Elkins said. “I can’t imagine kids going cold or without diapers.”
Inland NW Baby is the region’s only diaper bank. It also distributes clothes and hygiene items to low-income families through 35 agencies in Spokane, Stevens, Grant and Kootenai counties.
Shine said the organization’s focus on taking care of children is why he became involved. “That’s always been a focus for myself.”
Shine is the founder of West Central Baseball League, a no-cost baseball league for West Central youth, and Shine West Sports.
Shine and Elkins have structured their positions to divide the responsibilities between them.
“We didn’t want one person in charge and a worker bee,” Shine said. “She takes one part and handles it successfully and I take the other part and administer it successfully.”
As program manager, Shine’s responsibilities include all the business and financial responsibilities and cultivating existing and new community partnerships.
“I want to make sure the relationships continue,” Shine said. “It’s important they know we’re here and it really hasn’t changed.”
He is also leading the organization’s fundraising efforts. Currently working on the 75 Drives in 75 Days campaign, Shine is looking for 75 organizations to host a diaper drive before April 20. His goal is to collect 150,000 diapers.
“Am I having fun?” Shine asked laughing. “Yes I am.”
Elkins handles the daily operations such as scheduling volunteers, filling requests and processing donations.
“I would like to see the community become more involved,” said Elkins, who would like to increase clothing donations. “I think there’s a lot of people within our community that have no idea that we’re even here.”
A priority for Shine and Elkins is to strengthen current community partnerships, cultivate new ones and expand the number of children the group helps.
“We are an organization that helps families through partner organizations,” Shine said. “We are going to continue to do what we do and improve on it.”
As part of looking at options to help Inland NW Baby expand, they are exploring the possibility of becoming a staffed agency rather than a volunteer-run organization. The first step toward this goal is receiving tax-exempt nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service. Shine filed the paperwork earlier this month.
“Getting the 501(c)(3) status opens up the world to us,” Shine said. It would, among other things, allow the organization to compete for grant money. “Right now we’re limited on that front.”
If the group receives tax-exempt status, it also becomes eligible to become a community partner with the National Diaper Bank Network. The network is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to ensuring every baby in the U.S. can be clean, dry and healthy.”
Since it started in 2010, Inland NW Baby has distributed more than 175,000 diapers and filled 8,000 requests for assistance. Shine said the need increases every year and participating in the national network could increase the group’s ability to serve the needs of the community.
“We want INWB to grow so we can serve the kids we are currently serving,” Shine said. “And to serve more children in the Inland Empire.”