NORMAN — Sometimes a helping hand can come from a most unlikely source. Norman Veterans Center resident Johnnie Mitchell would be the first to agree.
Three years ago, Mitchell, who was using a wheelchair and was heavily depressed, couldn't find motivation to do much of anything.
It wasn't until a social worker suggested he take on a small community project that the lights came on. Mitchell, who has five grandchildren, chose to host a diaper drive for the Center for Children & Families in Norman.
The rest, as they say, is history.
With the help of friends, family and fellow veterans, Mitchell's first diaper drive brought in hundreds of diapers and wipes to supply CCFI's baby pantry. Three years and more than 6,000 diapers later, Mitchell's event has become an annual affair.
CCFI, a nonprofit agency, offers the free diapers and wipes and formula to families in the community who are having trouble making ends meet.
Mitchell's donations will fulfill a few weeks of the daily demand for diapers.
“Each year, CCFI's baby pantry provides 40,000 diapers, thousands of wipes and hundreds of cans of formula to families in need,” said Executive Director Katie Fitzgerald.
“The baby pantry is supported 100 percent by the community and through drives, like Johnnie Mitchell's.”
Having completed an extra summer diaper drive, Mitchell wrapped up a fourth event on Dec. 19, weighing in with more than 2,300 diapers, 1,500 baby wipes, nine cans of formula and dozens of handmade stocking caps and blankets.
Excited about how the project has evolved, Mitchell said, “Now I love doing this for CCFI and I just can't stop. It's what I do now.”
That's not the only thing that's evolved.
Mitchell proudly walks down the halls with a cane instead of a wheelchair, a smile instead of a sad stare.
He recalls how he's moved on from his depression to having something to look forward to every year.
“I just like helping people,” he said.
Sara Wilson is communications specialist for the Center for Children & Families.
To learn more
For more information about the Center for Children & Families in Norman, go to www.