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Springfield, MO

2017 Most Influential Women: Jill Bright

Diaper Bank of the Ozarks

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Jill Bright’s resume is nothing but a lengthy list of accomplishments.

In 1974, Bright graduated as a registered nurse through the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom. Later, she earned the same designation in the United States, and took on various roles in nursing administration and education. Then in 1999, Bright took on a nurse and office manager position for Dr. James D. Bright’s solo psychiatry practice.

The list goes on: Bright was once awarded the city of Springfield’s Gift of Time Award in 2014 and the Council of Churches of the Ozarks’ Dorsey Levell Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

But one of Bright’s fondest achievements is founding and directing the Diaper Bank of the Ozarks after hearing about the issue during the Newborns in Need Annual Conference.

“I became aware of an unmet need and set out to conquer the problem,” Bright says. “My eyes were opened.”

According to the organization’s website, the Diaper Bank has helped more than 25,000 babies over the last five years, distributing more than 1 million disposable diapers and 200 cloth diaper starter kits.

“Living in Springfield, Missouri, where poverty levels have grown steadily over the past decade, so many families are struggling to put food on their tables and keep a roof over their head,” Bright says. “To add the $60-$80 monthly cost of diapers to that situation was a setup for failure.”

Bright says many government programs do not assist with the purchase of diapers. Instead, these programs provide items of clothing or food.

“My passion is to ensure all babies in our community have these needs met,” Bright says. “They do not have a voice to speak out, but I do and I will.”

Bright was considering retirement when her love for sewing and children led her to Newborns in Need in 2002.

“As a board member, I went out into the community sharing the mission, recruiting volunteers and creating relationships with donors,” Bright says. “As a seamstress, I was a dedicated volunteer at the facility, leading groups, teaching teens to sew and providing an example to be followed.”

By 2012, she learned of a growing need for diapers among those living with low incomes.

“I knew immediately that my mission was changing,” she says.

Soon after, Bright’s diaper bank was born – and she said the dream continues to grow. The organization is currently following the collaborative collective impact model, Bright says, with plans to open a baby hub in the next two years.

Bright recently witnessed the importance of having as many resources as possible, for pregnant moms and parents of babies, under one roof. Transportation can be limited, Bright says, and many agencies and resources can be scattered across town.

“Our center will not only house the diaper bank, but will also provide office space, classrooms and conference rooms for collaboration between agencies, as well as educational opportunities and resources for parents in one location,” she says.

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