Caren Bright helps poverty-stricken mothers cover their babies’ bases

Pamper Lake Highlands nonprofit founder Caren Bright: Photo by Jennifer Shertzer
Pamper Lake Highlands nonprofit founder Caren Bright: Photo by Jennifer Shertzer

Diapers. You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them unless, like Lake Highlands neighbor Caren Bright, you didn’t have them when you desperately needed them.

“There are no government funded programs for diapers and wipes,” Bright explains. “That’s at least $20 a week. If you are homeless and you are on a strict budget, you’re choosing between food, gas and diapers for your baby.”

Bright grew up in extreme poverty with an abusive mother. She ran away from home at 17, a broken young woman with no self-worth. At 20 she became pregnant, and by the time her son was 11 months old, they were in a homeless shelter.

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“My mom’s favorite line for me was, ‘Who do you think you are?’ And I had to respond, ‘I’m nobody, mom. I’m nobody,’ ” Bright recalls. “My son took his first steps in a homeless shelter, and that’s when I realized, ‘I am somebody. I’m a mom. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but it can only go up from here.’ ”

“When we were at the homeless shelter, we could have three diapers a day. If your child needed more, then you just had to find diapers.”

She managed to pull herself up by her bootstraps — Texas style. She earned her GED, took classes at a community college, spent eight years in therapy, took addiction recovery classes to curb an ongoing eating disorder, learned how to be a better parent to her children, and spent a year and a half fixing her broken spiritual life.

In early 2014, she felt God tell her to use her past experiences to help other people, so she thought back to her life in the homeless shelter.

“When we were at the homeless shelter, we could have three diapers a day,” Bright recalls. “If your child needed more, then you just had to find diapers.”

Bright’s family wouldn’t give her diapers or money for diapers, but someone in her dad’s office heard she needed them and anonymously donated diapers and $20.

To this day Bright doesn’t know who it was, but it made such an impact on her that she decided to establish Pamper Lake Highlands, which hosts annual diaper drives. Pamper Lake Highlands collected 450 diapers in 2014, and it has rapidly expanded to collecting more than 38,000 in 2015.

Five areas — education, counseling, parenting classes, Bible study and addiction recovery — were game-changers for Bright, she says. So she eventually added onto the program by requiring parents to participate in one of these five areas in order to receive diapers.

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“We want to walk next to them to help break the cycle of poverty,” Bright says.

Learn more at pamperlakehighlands.org.

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