By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
Lindsay Gray, executive director and one of the founding members of Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank, can still remember the conversation. The women’s group at her church was planning to host a baby shower for a mother in Woodlawn.
“During our discussion, we were trying to figure out what moms really need, and diapers came up. One of the women in that circle went to college with the executive director of the Washington, D.C. diaper bank. We have never heard of anything like that in Birmingham.”
Two women from the group called around and “asked whether Birmingham had a diaper bank and discovered we didn’t,” Gray remembered.
Since she was a labor delivery nurse and passionate about women and children, she was asked to be on the founding board of directors of what is believed to be Birmingham’s first diaper bank.
The group hosted their first diaper drive at Mountain Chapel Methodist Church in 2014 and it was “a success,” she recalled.
The following year, Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank was born. “We had a heart for the mission, we knew there was a need, and sometimes that’s all it takes,”
The group has found a way to help in a number of ways including things women don’t feel comfortable about, said Gray.
For example, some women are still ashamed to say they don’t have money to purchase diapers for their babies or money to purchase period products, she said.
The nonprofit distributes thousands of diapers and period products from its downtown office at 1430 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd, through its 65 community partners.
Through mid-April “we distributed five million diapers” since 2015, she said.
There are several ways residents can get diapers. “You can sign up on our website [Bundlesdiaperbank.org] or just walk in on Wednesdays,” said Gray, who was featured in the City of Birmingham’s StrongHer campaign during Women’s History Month. “That was such an honor and it was so many other inspiring stories,” she said.
On Wednesdays, the Diaper Bank allows individuals to walk in from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. or for pregnant mothers with specific agencies in a 10-mile radius can have products such as diapers, wipes and period products delivered through Door Dash.
Gray, 39, grew up in Indianapolis with her mother, father and older sister; while in the second grade the family moved to Pell City, AL.
“My mom got a job down here when I was seven years old in health care administration at Children’s of Alabama,” Gray said.
The South was an adjustment for the young Lindsay. Coming from Indianapolis, individuals weren’t raised to say ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘no ma’am’, she said.
“I vividly remember as a child being totally humiliated by my P.E. coach because I didn’t say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’. I can see her right now with her glasses and short haircut yelling at me.”
During her senior year of high school, her mother received another job in Fresno, California. “That was a culture shock for me. Growing up in Alabama most of your life then moving to California is just totally different.” The people just weren’t friendly, said Lindsay who knew she would move back to Alabama because the pace of California was too fast and she felt Alabama had more hospitality and better scenery for her.
She left the West Coast and enrolled into Auburn University and lived in a trailer park near the school with some friends.
Originally her major was pre-med. “I took a physics course and it scared me so I went into nursing,” she said.
While at Auburn, Gray got into a “serious relationship with her boyfriend at the time who is now her husband, Johnny Gray.
“I knew what I desired in life. I wanted a family; I wanted to be a wife with children. I also knew how much doctors had to work. I understood the commitment not just education-wise but career-wise … I don’t regret my decision of nursing as opposed to doctor.”
Also both of her parents were nurses, she said. “At first, I wanted to be a doctor and when you think that’s the direction you want to go in the health care field nursing is an easy segue into it.”
Gray’s husband graduated from Auburn University before she did and enrolled into a graduate program in Birmingham. “I moved to Birmingham and transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to complete my nursing degree.”
In 2006, Gray obtained her degree and “got my dream job working as a labor and delivery nurse at Ascension St. Vincent’s,” where she worked for a decade before transitioning to the Diaper Bank.
She remembers “wanting to take care of babies since I was very little. I wanted to be a neonatologist.”
Part time, she did home health nursing for new moms. “That was for patients that had severe nausea and vomiting. I would go and do IVs and administer medicine. Some of them couldn’t go to work because they had high blood pressure. “
She also taught prenatal education at Ascension St. Vincent’s.
When Gray had her first child in 2009 – she now has three – she slowly pulled back from nursing to focus on the diaper bank. In 2016, she transitioned to Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank and became executive director in 2018. “We were growing and we needed somebody that could focus on the organization full time.”
On May 19, the group is hosting a Period Party at Cahaba Brewing in Avondale in observance of Period Poverty Awareness Week. “It will be a period run/ race to raise awareness,” she said.
“Birmingham has a legit running community. If we can engage them in it, that’s a whole group of people that are now knowledgeable about period poverty,” she said.
The organization is partnering with AMFIRST and Cahaba Brewing to host the event.
Although Gray puts in a lot of time with Bundles, she loves spending as much time with her family. “We love traveling and going to the beach,” she said. “We have a new favorite one its Pensacola beach in Florida.”
For more information on Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank visit bundlesdiaperbank.org.