Metropolitan Family Services provides diapers, school supplies to parents in need

Every Tuesday afternoon, families find a lifeline at the Addison Children's Center.

Angelina Perez receives a care package for her three children while schools and prekindergarten programs are shut down. With her hours reduced at work in the restaurant industry, the supplies provided by Metropolitan Family Services DuPage help ease some of the financial hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They're always checking on us, asking if we need help with anything," the Addison mom, 29, said. "It's just a good program."

As one of the main providers of early childhood services in DuPage County, Metropolitan is distributing baby wipes, diapers, formula, nonperishable food and at-home activity kits for families struggling to afford basic necessities. Demand quickly ramped up after the effort began in late March.

"As this pandemic has continued and increased, we're seeing families dive deeper and deeper into poverty because they're not working now," said Darby Pool, Metropolitan's associate director of early learning.

The nonprofit organization had to tap unrestricted funds to meet the need until a corporate partner provided a financial boost. A $25,000 grant from PNC Foundation will now allow Metropolitan to extend the weekly distribution through the end of August.

"We've worked with them on a variety of initiatives, particularly focusing on early childhood education, and have always had great respect for the breadth of their capabilities, the connectivity to communities throughout the greater Chicagoland area," said Scott Swanson, PNC Bank regional president for Illinois.

Households are turning to Metropolitan for cases and multiple bags of diapers - an expense not covered by SNAP and other safety-net programs. Disposable diapers can cost $70 to $80 every month per child, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.

So far, more than 175 families have picked up items through a contactless exchange at the Addison Children's Center, a central hub and one of Metropolitan's early learning sites in DuPage. The education services aim to prepare young children for kindergarten in under-resourced areas of the county.

"We would have been supplying these families diapers anyway, so we started our diaper distribution with that basic intent in mind, just to meet the families where they were at," Pool said.

Caregivers can still receive the supplies if they don't have children enrolled in the early learning programs.

"We have been able to serve some community partners through our connections and our partnerships with the Addison Early Childhood Collaborative as well as the Wheaton Warrenville Early Childhood Collaborative," Pool said.

With the PNC grant, Metropolitan is offering parents at-home activity bags filled with paper, pens, glue and other art materials to supplement online learning resources. Overall, PNC has pledged about $30 million for coronavirus relief across its markets, including $1 million in grants for Chicago-area organizations.

"We actually will continue to look for opportunities to be supportive in the communities in which we live and work," Swanson said. "But we have put a substantial amount of that money to work because we did see some immediate needs that had arisen and wanted to make sure that we were in place to help."

Metropolitan's Wheaton office also will accept donations of diapers, wipes, formula, baby food and nonperishable food. The office is open Tuesdays at 222 E. Willow Ave.

  Connie Graska, a home base supervisor for Metropolitan Family Services, hands Angela Flores, 15, and her mom Maria, of Hanover Park, diapers and pasta in Addison Tuesday. Mark Welsh/
  Connie Graska, a home base supervisor for Metropolitan Family Services, loads diapers and food into a car during a weekly distribution to help households in need. Mark Welsh/
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