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Diaper Bank Says Local Need Has Skyrocketed Since The Shutdown

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
The Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank accepts donations from major corporations, as well as individuals.


On today's program: Diapers remain in short supply for some Western PA parents; CMU’s virtual tip jar already boasts 6,000 names; scientists worry that poor air quality could make the Pittsburgh region more susceptible to coronavirus; and without reliable internet, rural school districts are struggling to provide equitable education.

The Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank is short on diapers
(00:00 — 04:33) 

With paper and cleaning products still hard to find, the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank is struggling to keep up with local demand. Executive director Cathy Battle says the usual sources from Huggies and the National Diaper Bank Network can’t keep up with an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 diapers now distributed every week.

“Diapers are very expensive, and even before the pandemic, there was no government assistance for diapers,” she says. “We cannot do this by ourselves.”

Battle says need is up 10,000 diapers per week and growing as more parents find themselves out of work during the outbreak. She works with 28 social service agencies to help distribute them all, and has recently hosted drive-up events at a warehouse in Homewood where volunteers maintain social distancing by loading recipients’ trunks. 

They’re also going out into communities like Clairton, where she says many guardians of young children don’t have access to a vehicle and can’t afford more than one pack of diapers at a time. 

Learn more about what led Battle and her husband to start the project in 2012 from a previous episode of The Confluencehere.

Virtual tip jar boosts unemployed service workers
(04:34 — 10:17)

The coronavirus shutdown has been particularly hard on service-industry employees like servers, tattoo artists, hair stylists and more. Many are completely out of work. 

90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll reports one way to help is through the Pittsburgh Virtual Tip Jar, launched March 16 by former server and Carnegie Mellon University philosophy professor Danielle Wenner. 

“The rule that we’ve established in our house is that if one of us has a drink, we send somebody a tip,” Wenner says. “Since we’re not going to bars, and we’re not going out to dinner, we wanted some kind of way to make it habitual, rather than just a thing we do when we remember.”

Shutdown shows inequity of student internet access across PA
(10:19 — 14:20)

With Pennsylvania schools closed indefinitely, districts are trying to move online quickly. The first hurdle is getting laptops to students who need them, but computers are of limited use without internet access. 

Wireless hotspots, it turns out, have quickly become the hand sanitizer of the technological world. 

Keystone Crossroads reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent talked to rural school superintendents who are hustling to get kids connected

Is there a link between dirty air and coronavirus risk?
(14:23 — 17:53)

Some scientists are positing that breathing in polluted air could make people more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus. For StateImpact Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier reports air quality could play a big role in how the pandemic plays out. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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