“I grew up in poverty, and I started working at 11. I love my mom to death, and you know, she did the best she could. But as a child, she would fill up the half-empty milk jugs with water to make the milk last. She had to take the food she was making for my sister and herself and grind it up to make baby food for me.”
Marcie Hines, a Cornerstone loan officer based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, says that when she talks about coming from nothing, she’s not kidding. After beginning to work at age 11, and then later buying her first car, Marcie lived with her mother in an efficiency apartment. Marcie’s mother took the bus to work for the next decade.
“I always knew — well, I wouldn’t have called it a calling back then — but I always knew I’d help kids one day. Because I knew how difficult it was to be a kid without.”
Growing up, food wasn’t something Marcie took for granted. It wasn’t uncommon for her to come home from school and find that there weren’t any snacks. There also weren’t seconds for dinner. This experience stuck with her, and as Marcie grew older and started her own family, she kept her eyes open for opportunities to give back.
‘We’re going to call it Caleb’s Cause.’
Marcie began working as a loan officer in 2001, and she and her husband Chris, a fellow loan officer, joined the Cornerstone work-family a decade later. After the Hines welcomed their son Caleb in 2006, Marcie’s desire to give to local kids only intensified.
As Caleb approached kindergarten, Marcie began researching family volunteer opportunities that required more of a commitment, as opposed to one-off contributions around the holidays. Here, she hit a roadblock: Because of liability, many major charitable organizations set teen-age volunteer minimums.
“I understand that, but where can families go with children of all ages? That was my thought process for at least a year. But one day, I remember it like it was yesterday, I went outside. I just opened up a conversation with God. I said, ‘What am I going to do so that our family can help local kids?’”
Within five minutes, Marcie got every question answered.
She felt called to start her own organization, realizing that she’d be able to use the natural skill set she’d already been given for operating businesses. She went inside to tell Chris immediately and said, “We’re calling it Caleb’s Cause Foundation.”
That was in July 2012. Marcie knew that she wanted to help local children in need, while creating opportunities for children of all ages to help too, and she knew she wanted her son to be the namesake.
Though Marcie had only been working at Cornerstone for seven months at the time, one of her first steps was to reach out to CEO Marc Laird requesting branded letterhead. Marc agreed to support her with the paper products she needed to create awareness and start fundraising the next day.
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“I was in a warehouse full of baby items, meeting with a friend who ran a nonprofit in Edmond, Oklahoma, called All Things Baby. (It’s one of our distribution spots today). She was giving me some really sage advice. She said, ‘Marcie, you need to get really specific about what you’re going to do because you’re not going to be able to do it all.’”
During the short conversation, Marcie watched her friend answer the phone three times and turn people away. Finally, Marcie had to ask what the callers wanted. “They’re calling for diapers,” her friend replied.
‘Every dollar and diaper that comes in goes out to where it’s needed.’
The cost of diapers is expensive, Marcie learned, and no state program covers them.
After doing some research, Marcie was shocked to find that the lack of diapers in her state — and every other state — is a leading cause of child abuse. Parents are often forced to leave children in soiled diapers or wash them out and reuse them. Not having diapers also stops many working parents from placing kids in daycare.
“Forget the clothes — I realized diapers are a two-year need and a basic necessity, next to food and love. Plenty of pantries have food, clothing, or both, but they don’t have diapers. That’s the missing piece. One in four Oklahoma children under the age of five lives in poverty. They definitely don’t have the extra $10 a week for diapers.”
Last year, Caleb’s Cause hosted its eighth annual fun run and 5K, with 100-percent of all funds going toward diapers. The Foundation has grown quickly, and it now serves over 10,000 children a year. Marcie’s current challenge? Trying to keep up with the ever-expanding waiting list for diapers.
“We’d need to bring in $1 million a year to make sure every child in Oklahoma had what they needed. What I’ve figured out in the last year is that, since 2012, I’ve learned a lot about diaper drives. So, we put everything we’ve learned into a diaper drive kit with an editable poster, email templates, and an event plan that anyone can download from our website.”
As of September 1, 2020, Caleb’s Cause is transitioning from direct diaper distribution to providing annual financial grants.
These yearly grants will fund Oklahoma ministries, nonprofits, crisis services, state partnered agencies, and other eligible groups that want to apply. Organizations can use these awarded funds ranging from $500 to $5,000 to purchase diapers and even start their own diaper program.
“I had an ‘aha moment’ when I was visiting diaper sites with Caleb last summer. I knew I couldn’t get to every business in every town in our state, but these organizations know their communities. If I give them the resources, they can do it, instead of having to replicate what we’re doing.”
It’s still a family affair. Now, Caleb’s old enough to be the Foundation’s spokesperson. Marcie remains passionate about allocating free resources and raising awareness. Every time the topic of diapers comes up, and Marcie explains that it’s a two-year need, she’s met with the same response, “Wow, I had no idea.”
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