Local residents donated more than 3,500 diapers to local moms in response to a call to help from Brooke Henze, founder of the nonprofit Foster Swell Inc. Henze also raised more than $1,000 to help purchase diapers for babies of Syrian refugees. CONTRIBUTED BY STEPHANIE MADISON PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Life with Gracie: Kids in Syria need diapers too; metro Atlanta woman wants to help

It’s been pretty hard to miss the news out of Syria, its ongoing civil war and more recently the chemical attack by the government on its citizens.

More than 80 people died early this month after breathing in poison. It was hard to watch and even harder seeing children choking, gasping for breath. Dying.

Our president, after viewing videos and photos of the dead children in Khan Sheikhoun, ordered a missile strike on Syria’s Al Shayrat air base. Brooke Henze, a 33-year-old mother of two in Sandy Springs, was so moved she took to the internet and launched a fundraiser to help.

“I have long followed some of the things happening in Syria,” Henze explained the other day. “I woke up one day after the suspected chemical attack and decided to actually do something.”

Brooke Henze, a 33-year-old mother of two in Sandy Springs, was so moved she took to the internet and launched a fundraiser to help.

Henze, owner of Swell Forever and social entrepreneur at heart, wasn’t sure what that might look like initially. She Googled how to help Syrian refugees and came across a very long list.

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Carry the Future, a nonprofit that collects baby carriers, caught her eye.

Well, host a diaper party is what really got Henze’s attention. She’d done that so many times she could do it with her eyes closed.

The best part was she wouldn’t be responsible for shipping. She could have people bring the diapers and donate them to a local charity, Helping Mamas in her case, and make any monetary donations to Carry the Future and its diaper fund for Syrian refugees displaced by the 6-year-old war.

“I liked their model and what they were doing,” Henze said of Carry the Future.

Like it or not, there’s a huge need for diapers here at home and in Syria.

Since 2011, when war broke out there, 5 million of its citizens have fled to other countries, and more than 6 million have been displaced within the country, according to the nonprofit World Vision. In many cases, children caught up in the crisis have fared the worst, losing family members or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling behind in school.

Because of a lack of facilities to clean cloth diapers in the camps, the need for disposable diapers is huge. Without them, children and even some grown-ups are vulnerable to illness and disease.

Brooke Henze, owner of Swell Forever, pictured left with Ayzsa Tannis from Helping Mamas and Jean Christian, shows off diapers collected at a fundraiser held Thursday. More than 3,500 diapers were donated to local moms in need and $1,000 to help babies of Syrian refugees. CONTRIBUTED BY STEPHANIE MADISON PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Henze has been trying her best to alleviate people’s suffering, babies in particularly, since, oh, fifth grade, when she would host diaper drives and other fundraisers for nonprofits.

“I was a strange bird,” she said as a big grin crept across her face. “My idea of a good time was organizing the baby clothes closet at a crisis pregnancy center.”

Part of that she owes to the heart her parents gave her, and part of it is because she simply loves babies. Always has.

But when she became a mother for the first time, after several miscarriages, three years ago, that love was amplified 10 times over.

Even before motherhood, she was preparing herself to do more for others.

When she graduated from Whitefield Academy and then the University of Georgia in 2005, Henze went on to earn an MBA in social entrepreneurship from Duke University.

“I studied about how you get the most bang for your buck and how to strategically invest in the community,” Henze said.

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In 2013, she launched Swell Forever, an heirloom blanket company, as a way to make money, give back to the community, and encourage others to be the change they felt was needed.

At first, Swell Forever simply made donations to foster children and families, but Henze quickly realized she needed a separate nonprofit to do that.

Last year, she launched Foster Swell Inc., which provides grants to families interested in adoption. The nonprofit also gives “mini” grants to help children attend camp, get private tutoring and swimming lessons or participate in extracurricular activities that augment their lives but for which the state will not pay.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To meet the dire need for diapers in refugee camps, Henze partnered recently with several Atlanta businesses, including Bon Glaze Donuts, Constellation Wine Brands, and Lilywrap, to support both Helping Mamas and Carry the Future. To donate to Foster Swell’s Refugee Diaper Fund, click here: https://fosterswell.org/products/buy-diapers-for-refugees.

More than donating diapers, they hope to raise awareness about what “diaper need” is and how vital clean diapers are for families in need, and provide a tangible way for all of us to support those suffering from the effects of war. But it doesn’t even stop there.

A permanent bin will remain at Fragile Gifts in Sandy Springs (6235-B Roswell Road) to collect gently used baby clothes, wipes and diapers post event. Even open packs are welcome for local babies in need.

“I can’t imagine facing a morning wondering where a diaper would come from for my child,” Henze said.

Not many folks in America can, but that’s the reality for far too many people both here and abroad.

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