Business for a Better World: Keeping Families Covered

Keeping Families Covered

3250-B N. Oak Grove Ave., Waukegan, IL 60087

4138 W. Orleans St., McHenry, IL 60050

(224) 637-1644

Industry: Nonprofit (501c3)

Number of employees: Four employees and 22 core volunteers

An interview with Ann Marie Mathis, Founder & CEO, Keeping Families Covered

Q: Describe your company.

A: Keeping Families Covered provides diapers and other basic needs to families. We distribute items through community partners and direct service. We also raise awareness about diaper need and period poverty while working to build sustainable distribution programs in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

Our mission is to eliminate the barriers that exist to access basic human needs for the most vulnerable residents in the community. As a member of the National Diaper Bank Network, we give away diapers (babies, toddlers, and adults) through our diaper bank and mobile diaper pantry. We also provide other essentials like baby wipes, infant formula, new/gently used maternity wear and children's clothing/shoes (birth to youth size 12), new baby care equipment and children's books.

As a member of the Alliance for Period Supplies, we also give away period products (pads and tampons). With offices in Lake County and McHenry County, Keeping Families Covered supports thousands of families with the basics they need to thrive.

As a mother of seven, I understand the challenge of caring for young children and how much more difficult it can be when a parent lacks essentials. I started this organization to eliminate the barriers that exist to access basic human needs for the most vulnerable residents in the community.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

A: We recently expanded into McHenry County and opened a second warehouse location, doubling our geographic service area. This new facility joins the original Waukegan based warehouse that served nearly 13,000 families (17,859 children) in 2022 alone, with the goal of making an even bigger impact in 2023. With over 1 million diapers already being distributed annually, this expansion means at least 500,000 more diapers will be distributed this year.

We made significant improvements to the McHenry site to make it consistent with the Waukegan location. While there are no plans to hire additional staff this year, we always welcome volunteers who want to support our mission.

Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: Diaper banks are trusted resources in their respective communities. Each requires ongoing support and donations of dollars, goods, and time to help children and families who are struggling to meet their most basic needs.

We have seen an unprecedented increase in requests for help since the arrival of COVID-19. Diapers, wipes, infant formula and period products are the most critical needs. Inflation, job loss, product shortages and other challenges have forced more families to turn to diaper banks.

Keeping Families Covered provides help and hope to families in crisis by distributing diapers and other basic needs at no cost. There are limited resources for free diapers. As a member of the National Diaper Bank Network, we gave away over 1.23 million diapers in 2022. One in 3 families struggle with diaper need. Throughout Illinois, 18% of infants under the age of 3 live in families earning less than 100% of the poverty line, 27% of W.I.C. recipients are considered infants and 23% of TANF recipients have at least 1 child under the age of 3.

This demonstrates that diapers are an ongoing and high priority need for many families, especially those experiencing financial hardship. Those families must often choose between buying diapers, paying bills or getting groceries. On average, infants need 10-12 diapers per day and toddlers need 7-8. At a cost of $70-$80 per child per month, diapers are an expense that many families struggle to afford. Safety net programs like food stamps and W.I.C. do not cover diapers, so Keeping Families Covered helps to fill the gap.

Since joining the Alliance for Period Supplies in May 2020, we have given away over 480,000 period products to women and girls in our community. One in 4 women has struggled to purchase period products within the past year due to lack of income. One in 5 low-income women report missing work, school or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies. Lack of access to period supplies is linked to using substitute products (toilet tissue or socks), stretching product usage and missing important events. An overwhelming 88% of women agree that period products are a basic necessity.

Only 4% of women are aware of a local resource where free or reduced cost period supplies are available - and we want to be that resource. Like diapers, state and federal safety-net programs cannot be used to purchase period supplies. We are anticipating a significant increase in demand for our programs this year due to the recent reduction in SNAP benefits. Families already struggling to make ends meet will be disproportionately impacted by the loss of assistance they may have relied on each month.

These types of changes to safety net programs make our work even more critical so that we can support the current and future needs of the most vulnerable residents in the communities we serve.

Q: What does your company do to reduce the effects of climate change?

A: At our Waukegan facility we accept and distribute new/gently used clothing and shoes for children from birth to age 12. We also accept and distribute new/gently used maternity wear. Every gently used item is inspected thoroughly and must meet our strict quality standards.

Items that we are unable to keep are recycled. Cardboard is recycled at our Waukegan and McHenry warehouses. We also use recycled bags to package orders and menstrual products that are distributed to families. Finally, we are in the process of converting our offices to a clean energy provider and switching all light bulbs to LED to make them more energy efficient.

Q: Is your company minority-owned? Woman-owned? If so, what are the challenges of being a minority- or woman-owned company?

A: Yes, Keeping Families Covered is a woman-owned and operated organization. The challenge isn't so much being a woman-owned company as it is being a nonprofit organization. A nonprofit must earn the public's trust to be successful and sustainable. There is a constant pressure to show results and strategic solutions while managing budget limitations.

Many organizations compete for the same funding opportunities and donor support. Rising costs and the lack of resources can also impact a nonprofit more significantly.

Q: What does your company do regarding DE&I (diversity, equity & inclusion)?

A: We maintain that achieving diversity requires an enduring commitment to inclusion that must find full expression in our organizational culture, values, norms and behaviors. Throughout our work, we will support diversity in all of its forms, encompassing but not limited to, age, disability status, economic circumstance, ethnicity, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.

Q: Does your company do anything else to make your community better?

A: Keeping Families Covered makes a positive impact in our community every single day by providing families with the basics they need to thrive. We donate over 1 million diapers and 100,000 menstrual products annually, along with many other items.

We partner with social service agencies, nonprofit organizations and others in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin to deliver critical support to families in need.

We also collaborate with local businesses for diaper and period product drives to raise awareness about our mission, engage the community, and educate people about how they can get involved in our important work. Additionally, we are advocates for policy change to safety net programs that provide support to families and eliminating the sales tax on diapers/menstrual products in Illinois.

Q: What do you do to make your business a good place to work for your employees?

A: As an employee, I always remembered the exceptional bosses that I had throughout my corporate career. Whether it was giving advice that made me look at a situation differently, having my back when a difficult decision needed to be made, supporting my desire to advance, or being flexible once I started a family, I have never forgotten those people and how they treated me.

When I decided to leave corporate life and jump into running my nonprofit organization full-time, I knew that I wanted to be a boss with the same characteristics. A good leader knows that their company will not be successful without a great team. I do everything that I can to make my employees and volunteers feel like they are part of something special. I want them to feel valued, appreciated, seen, and heard.

I also believe that family and health come first. Most of my team members have been with me for many, many years. I believe that is a testament to their commitment to the mission of the organization and my leadership style. Keeping Families Covered would not be what it is today without the contributions of each and every member of my team.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: Providing help and hope to families in crisis.

Q: What is one interesting fact about your company that most people may not know?

A: What began as an idea and a collection of items in my basement back in 2010 has evolved into a brick-and-mortar organization that has become a trusted resource for over 70 community partners and 13,000 families.

• Do you have a Business for a Better World? Email us about it at

Ann Marie Mathis
Keeping Families Covered volunteers pack diapers. Photo courtesy of KFC
Keeping Families Covered's mission is to eliminate the barriers that exist to access basic human needs for the most vulnerable residents in the community. Photo courtesy of KFC

Keeping Families Covered

3250-B N. Oak Grove Ave., Waukegan, IL 60087

4138 W. Orleans St., McHenry, IL 60050

(224) 637-1644

Industry: Nonprofit (501c3)

Number of employees: Four employees and 22 core volunteers

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