Since the onset of the pandemic, The Napkin Network has collected more than 200,000 diapers and thousands of cans of baby formula. The nonprofit, committed to providing baby essentials to those in need, has donated 10,000+ diapers to local parents and distributed formula and diapers to four partner nonprofits in the Washington, D.C. area, such as Feed the Fridge.
Behind The Napkin Network is founder and Bethesda mom Lindsay Gill, a 38-year-old who not only wants to make a difference in her community by helping moms in need, but also by teaching her three children — Fletcher Jr., 6; Gwyneth, 3; and Dane, 1 — about the importance of lending a helping hand.
You began The Napkin Network at the beginning of the pandemic. Why?
When COVID happened, I had two children at the time… I had to stop working full-time at Luke’s Wings (Gill’s husband’s nonprofit providing free airfare for military families to visit their injured loved ones). And I just was seeing in the news how many moms really were struggling to take care of their children, whether it was financial, or providing basic baby needs, getting ready for daycare. Every day it was something bad, and the thing that I kept seeing most was that they’re struggling to afford basic essentials like diapers. I just reached out to some of my mom friends, and I actually did a diaper drive for the DC Diaper Bank. And I thought, ‘Well, I could do that again, or I could make it into something that I oversee and make it a little more comprehensive.’
The Napkin Network pivoted to help victims of the earthquakes in Turkey. How?
When I started The Napkin Network, I wanted to be small enough to make decisions in real time, where the real needs were. Just seeing these terrible images and these heartbreaking stories of moms and babies and Turkey, and just the suffering — we’re just doing what we can by understanding what the embassy is telling us they need. They need items like pre-made formula because access to water is difficult. They need warm clothes for babies, diapers, things like that. So we’re still within our mission. We’re just sending these items through the Turkish embassy internationally this time.
What is the goal of the organization moving forward?
Now, I want to really make sure that we’re helping moms in need in the DMV area because that’s where I’m born and raised, where my children are going to school and growing up.
But I do hope the bigger picture will be that there’s chapters of The Napkin Network all over the country. There’s no reason why this model can’t be in every city in every state.
What values do you hope your work in The Napkin Network will instill in your young children?
My kids…their little brains—they didn’t necessarily know that [the Napkin Network deliveries] weren’t for them. It took a couple of times of saying, ‘These aren’t for you. These are for people who need them.’
Just trying to have that conversation that not everyone is lucky or blessed as they are. So Mommy and Daddy and our friends and our family are trying to help give stuff to people who can’t afford them or need them. And they’re starting to understand it, and it’s really special.
How has your work at The Napkin Network influenced how you view your own experience as a parent?
I started The Napkin Network to help other moms, moms ‘in need’… But I’ve also been raising a 1-year-old in the height of two really major crises, basically: a formula shortage…and also we’re dealing with COVID, RSV and flu. I also became a mom ‘in need’, but just a different sort of need. So it’s been really eye-opening for me to go from helping others who couldn’t afford things to really being a mom in need myself and struggling to find basic baby essentials.
What is your family’s favorite…
Meal: We’re a big slow cooker family, but I would say we love home-cooked chili. That’s a favorite.
Vacation spot: We love the Finger Lakes, and we love the Outer Banks.
Family Memory: When we went to the Outer Banks. It’s just such a nice feeling to go somewhere as a family. We rent a house, everything’s quiet, we bring our dog — we have a husky — and just spend time together in a different environment.