Merced is a community with a lot of poverty, made worse with the Great Recession in 2009 and the COVID-19 pandemic. To help people in need, Professor Patti LiWang has been leading a diaper and toilet paper drive for the past 12 years.
“When we moved here, the recession hit. It was hard for us, a two-income family, so I understood it must be much harder for one- and low-income families,” she said. “Then I read an interview with a social worker who said she had seen people re-using diapers and taking napkins from fast-food restaurants for toilet paper. I thought we had to do something.”
She arranged to put a donation box in the Science and Engineering 1 Building, where her department, Molecular and Cell Biology, is housed and told everyone she knew about the drive. People began donating, sometimes boxes of diapers, sometimes money. Over the years, a few others put donation boxes in their buildings and helped gather more goods.
LiWang takes the donations to the Merced County Food Bank, which distributes them either directly or through many local food pantries.
Last year, during the pandemic lockdown, LiWang took more monetary donations and gathered some boxes of diapers and packages of toilet paper from people’s front porches and doorsteps — contact-free — and managed to donate more than 6,000 diapers.
“We need all size diapers, all size packages,” she said. “I usually buy the Target brand because the name-brands are more expensive, but we accept any kind.”
The drive has begun for this year. There’s a donation box in S&E1 near the vending machines and one at the Downtown Campus Center near the Public Relations Department on the first floor.
If you would like to host a box in your building and can serve as the point person to let LiWang know when donations are ready for pickup, or if you would like to donate money (cash or checks), email LiWang. She also has a Venmo account, @Patricia-LiWang, to accept donations.