“Nothing is impossible. Let’s go after it.”
It’s Jon Jerome’s mindset in staring down challenges. Like distributing 280,000 baby diapers to families in need.
Jerome, his H.E.R.O.E.S. Care teammates and community volunteers recently joined forces to distribute 60,000 of those diapers and packages of baby wipes in just four hours. A group of Regions Bank associates in St. Louis helped during the drive–through event organized to observe social distancing guidelines.
“We had people drive 50 miles each way to pick up a month’s supply of diapers,” said Jerome, President and CEO of H.E.R.O.E.S. Care, a nonprofit which stands for Homefront Enabling Relationships, Opportunities and Empowerment through Support. “That’s the kind of need there is.”
The diaper distribution occurred through a collaboration with the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank and financial support from Regions. With its focus on “Changing Diapers, Changing Lives,” the St. Louis Diaper Bank helps ensure low-income families aren’t forced to choose between buying diapers rather than food or medicine.
“It costs over $1,000 to diaper one child for a year. That $1,000 represents at least 15% of the take–home income of a parent working at minimum wage,” said Julia Moss, Board Chair of the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank. “The need has expanded to families who are experiencing layoffs and job loss due to COVID-19. We are grateful for the collaboration with H.E.R.O.E.S. Care to ensure that the basic needs items needed for healthy and dignified lives are available to all who need them in our community.”
The logistical aspects of bringing together hundreds of people while keeping them safely apart during the diaper drive at the H.E.R.O.E.S. Care warehouse would have intimidated many. But not Jerome.
“It’s been an experience. It’s definitely involved a mind shift,” said Jerome, noting how H.E.R.O.E.S. Care has adapted in providing resources during the pandemic. In this instance, that included finding an auction site to purchase large quantities of face masks and hand sanitizer.
“We just did what we had to do,” said Jerome. You’re going to come across a problem. There’s 13 possible solutions. There’s one that will work.”
Ingenuity, positivity and partnership are in Jerome’s DNA. He’s constantly exploring new and innovative ways to work with others to support military families, veterans and civilians alike in Missouri and beyond.
“We find creative ways to use things so they don’t go to waste,” said Jerome. “We’ll ask, ‘How can we work together to effectively use the resources we have without taxing others?’ When we all share our collection, we can make things happen.”
Regions established its community partnership with H.E.R.O.E.S. Care in 2013. The relationship has included providing financial education to the organization’s clients, shipping care packages to service members overseas, participating in a sneaker giveaway for children of military families, collecting and sorting holiday toys, and more.
“It’s been a blessing for us to partner with Regions,” said Jerome.
Three years ago, that community partnership grew by bringing other nonprofits to the table. Regions invites dozens of organizations for quarterly meetings on how these nonprofits, along with the bank, can tackle issues.
“We work with 134 community partners,” said Jerome. “During our collaborative meetings, nonprofits will ask, ‘Do you know someone who does this?’ We can then connect people with resources to help.”
Regions Commercial Administrative Assistant Diane Wehmer has been volunteering with H.E.R.O.E.S. Care for several years and helped with the diaper distribution.
“H.E.R.O.E.S. Care is a great organization that provides invaluable services to military members and their families,” said Wehmer. “It was an honor to take part in the diaper event and very rewarding to provide some comfort and support to our military heroes.”
Linda Lockwood, Relationship Manager with Regions’ Investment Services group, and Erica Davis from the Commercial Portfolio team were also involved. While the drive was held in response to these exceptionally difficult times, both found the day uplifting and inspiring.
“It brought a lot of joy for me to be able to dedicate my time on that Saturday to help with H.E.R.O.E.S. Care, especially during a time when the world was being quarantined,” said Davis.
“Being with people who wanted to give back was very positive,” added Lockwood. “It was great to get out of the mode of thinking about myself and my well-being by giving back to the community – especially to those who are on the front lines and don’t have the luxury of thinking of their own well-being. I was so happy to be part of it.”
Jerome and his staff share that sense of selflessness. It’s what has kept them going while receiving a surge of requests for help – coupled with their volunteer pool evaporating due to coronavirus exposure fears. The result has involved H.E.R.O.E.S. Care working especially long days.
“They would not go home,” said Jerome, noting the tireless dedication of his team. “We have people who reach out to us and say, ‘You’re the only person I can call.’ That motivates us.”
Those requests have also reinforced that Jerome and his team are an essential service in every sense.
“In the ups and downs of running a nonprofit, we’ve realized more than ever that we have a purpose,” said Jerome. “We are needed. Whatever it takes to get things done. Don’t give up.”
Thanks to the spirit of community partnership and the kindness of volunteers, 250 families drove away with far more than diapers and baby wipes. They received the priceless gift of peace of mind – and a reminder that anything is possible when Jon Jerome is involved.