It’s not stretching the point too far to say that 12 months of the year Weyerhaeuser in Columbus makes diapers, but one month out of the year it collects them, too.
From March 4-25, employees at Columbus Cellulose Fibers and its Lowndes County partner Columbus Modified Fiber, along with many of their contractors and vendors, donated 106,929 diapers during the Weyerhauser-wide “Operation Diaper Drive.”
For the Columbus facilities, the diaper drive seemed particularly appropriate.
“We make fluff pulp and our biggest customers are Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark, which use our product for diapers, baby wipes, those sort of products,” says Columbus Cellulose Fibers VP and mill manager David Phillips. “So this was natural for us.”
Fluff pulp is a major component in disposable diapers. The highly-absorbent material produced in Columbus is made from pine timber from the company’s massive timber operation. Weyerhaeuser, in fact, is the largest private land-holder in the state and one of the largest land-holders worldwide.
Diapers can be a critical drain on resources for the poor. The company estimates one in three families with small children struggle with paying for diapers, which cost, on average, more than $1,200 per year.
For that reason, diapers are the most requested items at local food banks, shelters and community outreach organizations.
The diapers collected in Columbus will be donated to the United Way of Lowndes County, which will disperse the diapers among its numerous charity partners and programs.
Weyerhaeuser has held diaper drives for four years and the number of diapers donated tripled between 2012 and 2014 — from 400,000 the first year to 1.2 million last year.
This year, the company had set a goal for its 13,000 employees to collect 1.3 million diapers (100 per employee). It easily surpassed that goal, collecting 1.57 million diapers in less than a month.
Nowhere was the drive more successful than in Columbus, where the 425 employees and many of their suppliers eclipsed their goal of 100,000 diapers. Columbus donated more diapers than any other of the company’s facilities.
“I can’t say we’re surprised, but we are very proud of our employees, contractors and vendors,” Phillips said. “Citizenship is one of our core values as a company and this project certainly is in line with that value.”
The success also can be attributed to the enthusiasm of the company’s management team. Phillips, CCF production manager Steve Rogers, environmental administrative coordinator Anna House, executive administrative assistant Mary Hudson and CMF mill manager Allen Kerby actively promoted the campaign, setting up give-aways and fund-raisers to help inspire donations.
“Probably the most popular part of the campaign was the give-aways, which included a day’s vacation,” Phillips said. “No black-out dates or restrictions, either.”
House, Hudson and CMF administrative assistant Jennifer Elmore, served as self-appointed “Dooty Officers” during the month-long campaign, regularly encouraging employees and others to donate diapers or money to buy diapers for the drive.
But no one sacrificed more than Kerby, who said he would have his head shaved if the company reached its 100,000 diaper goal. Kerby lost his hair April 7.
Next year, it is likely Phillips will be pressed to make a similar pledge.
“I still have my hair…for now,” he said.