Leslie Pike has been selected as the 2022 First Things First Pima South Champion for Young Children.
The award is given to local champions who actively volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health.
Pike is the manager of programs and volunteerism at the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona. She raises awareness of the importance of early childhood by using her networks within the diaper bank to share FTF’s early childhood resources in the community. Pike has distributed FTF early childhood materials to the Diaper Bank’s 39 partner agencies, in addition to including resources in the diaper bank lobby for visitors and clients to access. The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona recently launched a potty training kit and cloth diaper kit program, and Pike worked with FTF to ensure that each kit includes an FTF family guide and early childhood information so that families have the ability to access other essential services.
We recently caught up with Pike.
QUESTION: Why do you think it’s important for people in your field/position in the community be a champion of young children and families?
ANSWER: In Arizona, 46.2% of infants and toddlers are born into families who are living harsh low-income realities, with almost 21% of these children living in dire poverty, at or below the Federal Poverty Level. These families and children are our neighbors, our friends, our family. We know, through the good work of First Things First, how critical these years are for children. It’s easy to think that “someone else” is dealing with all the poverty-related issues surrounding children and their families. What I have come to learn, working in the non-profit sector, is that if there is “knight in shining armor,” who will save the day, it’s ALL of US doing what we can with what we have. No matter what you do, you have something to offer.
QUESTION: How do you convince people not connected to early childhood that they should be a voice for Arizona’s young children?
ANSWER: In the diaper banking world, we work to provide access to essential supplies, like diapers, to families that have need. We use every opportunity to put the needs of children on people’s radar. Let’s face it, if you aren’t raising a child, you are likely not thinking about the needs of children very often! We tell them that these supplies aren’t covered by any other social safety net. Imagine being a parent of a small child and not being able to keep them in clean, dry diapers. Imagine the child suffering from painful rashes and urinary tract infections because of this! How will a parent and child be able to focus on the important things of nurturing relationships, learning, and well-being, if these basic needs cannot be met? When we ask people to imagine these realities, they are almost always stunned that they had never seen what is so obvious, and immediately understand the urgency of this issue.