Overland Park student bakes, sells bread in order to purchase diapers for metro refugees

Emma Richardson, pictured, baked and sold bread at the beginning of the summer to purchase diapers for refugees in the Kansas City area. Photo courtesy of Emma Richardson.

Emma Richardson, an Overland Park resident, began baking challah bread with the Jewish Student Union at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. She came to love baking bread, and eventually, used her talents for a good cause. 

Richardson’s mother donated clothes to Jennifer Byer, a Prairie Village resident who volunteers with refugee families in northeast Kansas City, Mo. As Emma Richardson tried to find ways to contribute, she thought of diapers as an expensive, recurring need many families have. 

“I kind of put two and two together and I realized that, if people are willing to buy [my] bread and I’m totally willing to make it, that money can go toward buying those diapers and helping in any way that I could,” Richardson said. 

Richardson spent about a month-and-a-half, through mid-June, baking bread to be sold for a minimum of $5. Some people would give her $10 to $20 for one or two loaves of various breads including challah, Italian, thyme and pita, she said. 

Some days, Richardson said she would bake nine to 10 loaves and was able to raise $600 to $700 through her efforts. She ended up donating 800 to 900 diapers and about 1,500 wipes to refugee families.

Her desire to help the families came naturally to Richardson, she said, as she grew up volunteering on weekends. As someone who didn’t “always live in a privileged lifestyle,” she said she tries her best to give back. 

Although Richardson will be in Kirksville this fall to study economics and Spanish for her sophomore year of college, she plans to continue her bread baking efforts when she’s back home for winter break. 

“I would want to help when I get back [from school], especially since I think the families are still going to be needing supplies by that time,” Richardson said. “I want to assist any way I can.”

Byer said this was the last haul of diapers Richardson left on her porch. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Byer.

Byer, the Prairie Village volunteer, was introduced to the metro’s refugee community four years ago to help a friend interpret. She’s been posting on the Nextdoor app, requesting all sorts of donations, including diapers. She said the need for diapers was made clear to her when a refugee mother, who did not speak English, looked at her and said “diapers.”

While Byer has been working with refugees for the last year, unaffiliated with any organization, COVID-19 posed additional issues with job cuts. The families tend to buy rice, corn flour and other dry goods in bulk, and Richardson’s diaper donation took away one significant cost to worry about, Byer said.

“All of these families are stretched thin, because all of the able adults work — unless they have to stay home with babies or whatever — but they work low-wage jobs,” Byer said. “Diapers are expensive, diapers are one of the most expensive things that they have to buy.”

Byer said those interested in getting involved should consider a fundraiser hosted by KC for Refugees. The organization is asking for $15 toiletry bags to be made, per this Facebook post:

Hi, everyone! Well, we are finally completely OUT of hygiene products for our refugees. If you and a group, church,…

Posted by KC for Refugees on Saturday, August 8, 2020