We’re so excited to chat today with Lindsay Gill, founder of The Napkin Network, an organization collects diapers, baby wipes and other supplies and distributes them to parents in need through nonprofits and other groups. We love this quote from her website: “We may all be in the same storm of ‘motherhood’ but not the same boat. We all weather this journey with different access to support, and I believe it is important to help where we can so no child suffers,” and we’re excited to learn more about Lindsay and The Napkin Network’s mission.
Hi Lindsay! Can you tell us what inspired you to launch The Napkin Network?
I have over fifteen years of non-profit work spanning from development work at National Geographic to Executive Director roles which were impactful and educational as I built a career but when motherhood, and COVID hit, my eyes were opened to the needs of my own family, as well as those around me. At the height of COVID, as I was preparing to welcome my third child, I was very aware of the access to baby supplies in my area. I live in an affluent area outside of Washington D.C and knew that many of my mom networks, if asked, could help fill in the gaps where many other moms were falling short on providing basic essentials for their children. What started out as a simple diaper drive to benefit the DC Diaper Bank quickly gained traction in the national social community we call The Napkin Network, which has provided over 75,000 diapers, wipes, cans of formula, and more in just two short years.
What is The Napkin Network’s mission?
We say we are a group of “Moms Helping Moms in Need”. Of course I realize that dads, grandparents, caregivers, and more all play a role in raising babies - I just wanted to tap into the natural, inherent “no questions asked” mentality that moms have. There is just a natural calling for Moms to help other Moms, especially when it comes to basic baby needs, like a clean diaper. However, many organizations like this already exist- The Diaper Banks, food pantries, and many more, so I wanted to create a social network first and foremost, where our meetings, events, conversations, all led back to giving back to Moms in Need. Any time we host an event, there is an ask to bring a baby item or to make a monetary donation. We also have a virtual “adopt a mom” where requests received through our website can be connected with a mom in our network and the requested items are sent directly. We have eight drop off locations in the Washington, D.C area and items donated are either directly donated to Moms or are gifted to under-funded but very impactful and established community based non-profits in our area.
We read that you were impacted by the on-going formula shortage. Can you tell us more about how The Napkin Network helps parents find the formula they need?
The formula shortage, and I would even say, crisis, is absolutely unacceptable. As a mom of three, I knew I would be using formula quite a bit for my newborn as a busy mom on the go. I did not realize that the birth of my baby would coincide with the most severe, and ongoing, formula shortage ever to happen. Not only was I the founder of an organization pledging to help Moms in Need, I was suddenly a Mom in Need myself. The formula shortage showed no favoritism to economic background- whether you had access to money or not, formula was not available. I used my social networks to host weekly formula drives, and I used some of my personal connections in the DC area to make some noise with senators and members of Congress. There has been some movement but this is still an ongoing issue with delayed production and I continue to share these struggles both from a professional and personal point of view.
As a mom of 3, we’re sure this work is very personal. What is the most rewarding part of the work you do? What are the biggest challenges?
I actually don’t consider this work - I run this organization by myself with some very key volunteers, and I don’t take a salary. I receive funny stares when I tell people I don’t work…and many correct me and say “YOU DO!”. To that point, my main challenge, and goal, is to fundraise so this can be a full-time job and we can take The Napkin Network to a national level and formalize this across the country. Not only do I see a gap in mom communities, but I also see the impact we can have. When you think about it, a box of diapers is no less than $25, and formula, no less than $35. You need these items daily and when financial hardships are part of your life, these BASIC needs for your children are hard to meet. It is extremely rewarding to help a mom, and at the very least, just give them a little financial breathing more for a week.
What’s next for The Napkin Network?
We are currently launching two chapters outside of Washington, D.C- one in Raleigh North Carolina, and one in Baltimore, Maryland. We are full of fun, Fall fundraising events, and are already planning items of 2023. I will be receiving an award from my college, The University of Maryland as its first Communications alumni Community Hero awardee, and look forward to getting some media attention on our Mom in Need requests as we go into the holiday season.
What’s the best way to support The Napkin Network?
Please visit https://www.thenapkinnetwork.com/ to get involved or donate
We heard you’re loving your Colugo Tote. Tell us more!
I have the Culugo Dune Zebra Tote and it was my favorite bag for everything kids. Every day after school pick up, my son and daughter ask “where are we going today?” so I know I need to be packed up and ready with snacks, water bottles, extra diapers, wipes, and everything in between. I keep my bag filled with me for easy movement between car, stroller, whatever adventure we get into, and back again. The zebra pattern in particular looks so fashionable I throw my keys and wallet in there too and it's my purse for the day.
Thanks so much, Lindsay!