Making a Difference: Village Diaper Bank founder makes life, career change to help families in need obtain diapers
Leaves Epic career for volunteer position at non-profit
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Megan Sollenberger had to make a choice: Should she give up a successful career at Epic during a pandemic for an unpaid position running the Village Diaper Bank? The non-profit was demanding more and more of the young mother’s time over the past few years since she had founded it, but she knew what she had to do.
In a goodbye letter to her fellow Epic employees in July of 2020, Sollenberger wrote: “I’m sure some think the decision would come easily, but it hasn’t. The road has been paved with tear stained cheeks, sleepless nights, and oh so much anxiety. But here we are. Ultimately when I think about where I’ll be in 20 years, what I’ll look back on and wish I’d done differently, there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would regret not taking the chance to chase my dreams, to spend more time with my precious boys, and to live with more intention. So here I am, in the midst of a global pandemic and a societal revolution, vacating a role I’ve spent years trying to attain, to go build something that may or may not pan out. I’m a realist – I recognize any start-up is fraught with risk (especially one that also happens to be a NFP). But this seems like one worth taking. Today was my last day at Epic.”
Sollenberger first started down the path toward changing her own life when she learned 1 in 3 families in America can’t afford diapers when their babies need to be changed. She said, “I can’t imagine making the choice between food or diapers....and I can’t imagine being a new Mom and knowing why my child is crying and not be able to stop it.”
When she started a birthday fundraiser on Facebook for Hurricane Harvey victims in 2017, it opened her eyes to a problem she’d never faced as a young mother . “I found out really quickly that the biggest need that folks (Hurricane Harvey victims) were asking for were diapers. For me, I’m a Mom of two small kids…and I started this when they were actually much smaller than they are now. From my perspective, once I learned this was an issue, and I also learned that government programs weren’t helping, I really felt like I needed to do something.”
She was determined to create a south central Wisconsin diaper bank for families in need here…and The Dane County Diaper Bank (now The Village Diaper Bank) became an official incorporated 501c(3) in summer of 2018. Trying to balance her work at Epic, family, and the growing non-profit, she made the decision to focus on the diaper bank full time last summer, giving up that successful career at EPIC for this job that pays only in satisfaction. She said, “I took a big leap of faith.”
The diaper bank’s efforts are growing, it’s serving more people, and getting the word out about the need for diapers that so many local families face. Support during the NBC15 Diaper Drive has been terrific, smashing the goals set for the campaign. Sollenberger said, “It’s been reinforcing that I AM on the right path, we are doing good in the community....and that people really care about what we’re working on. It feels really good.”
Not only does she not accept a salary, Sollenberger has a deal with the landlord of her building that the diaper bank shares space with a large pontoon boat during the winter months in exchange for a reduction in the non-profit’s rent. Anything to help the cause, and provide more diapers for families who need them.
Sollenberger gets emotional thinking about the stress not having diapers causes for parents...and babies. “Very much so. Even just thinking about a small baby, upset and in tears…and it’s such a simple fix that we could make that change for them? It just really pulls at my heartstrings.”
After I surprised her with NBC15′s Making a Difference Award for all she is doing to help area families, Sollenberger wrote: “I can’t thank you and your team enough for selecting me for the “Making a Difference” award. The Village is akin to my third child – something I’ve loved, nurtured, and watched in awe as its growth continues. I like to focus more on the work of the organization rather than my work as an individual, but every once and awhile it’s nice to be acknowledged. While I’m at the helm, The Village has so many supporters that donate their time, dollars and diapers to ensure its success, and they truly deserve just as much credit, if not more, than I.”
Megan Sollenberger’s Making a difference....by making a change in her own life to change the lives of others. “For me, I think the primary motivator is I’m a Mom--like the Moms we are serving. And when I found out this issue existed, I just couldn’t NOT do anything about it. I felt so compelled to help alleviate someone else’s burden--especially since I am in a place where I’ve never had to struggle with this issue personally. It does make me feel grateful that we are able to do something that in my opinion feels like a small act of kindness for families that can make such a huge difference.”
Click here to donate, or find out more information on Village Diaper Bank.
Click here to nominate an individual or organization for the NBC15 Making a Difference Award.
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