Two staunch allies of regional healthcare and access to resources has been honored with 2023 St. Louis Children’s Hospital Advocacy Awards.
Muriel Smith, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank executive director, and Missouri state Sen, Brian Williams, were recently recognized for “dedicating their personal and professional lives to uplifting the children of our region and instilling a sense of possibility for the future through education, health care, and legislative progress,” according to Children’s Hospital.
Smith’s organization focuses on ending diaper need and lack of access to period supplies, called period poverty. She has seen inequitable distribution of resources, including education, food, housing, and green spaces, affect the lives of those in under-resourced neighborhoods in the St. Louis community.
Smith helps ensure that individuals and families in the St. Louis region have basic items to help care for themselves and has been instrumental in creating awareness of the causes and consequences of diaper needs and period.
Under her leadership, the Diaper Bank has increased the number of partner agencies and organizations, distributed over three million diapers annually, expanded its period supply program, and helped create the Missouri Coalition of Diaper Banks.
National Diaper Need Awareness Week is celebrated in October and she is thrilled with the many donations and financial support. But the need is year-round.
“It costs an average of $100 each month to diaper a single baby, and one in three U.S. families struggle with this expense,” Smith said.
“[Our organization] diligently works throughout the year to ensure families have access to clean diapers and other necessities because it is crucial in helping children thrive.”
Smith also is involved with several nonprofit organizations in St. Louis, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, Family Resource Center, and North Side Community School.
She serves on the Missouri Momnibus Committee, a collaboration of several dozen Black advocates across the state who have joined in their dedication to Black Maternal Health, and is also a member of the Mujeres and Menstruators United Coalition.
Williams grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, and is the first Black male to serve in the Missouri Senate in two decades.
Williams advocates addressing economic disparities by strengthening public schools, increasing access to quality health care, and focusing social and racial equity, and public safety.
He also believes that gun violence in Black communities is among many health inequities in the region.
He wants to reinstate the requirements needed to obtain a permit to conceal and carry a firearm. Missouri repealed the permit requirement during the 2016 legislative session.
“I’m tired of asking how many more tragedies it will take before the Legislature takes action to thwart our state’s high murder rates and enact common sense gun laws,” said Sen. Williams.
“While conceal and carry permit requirements won’t eradicate the violent crime that is plaguing our state, at the very least, those who carry firearms will be appropriately trained and on the radar of law enforcement. I cannot and will not look another child in the face without knowing I am doing everything I can to protect them.”
Williams has created legislation giving those with sickle cell anemia access to needed pain medication prescriptions, protected individuals' MO ABLE funds for disability costs, and leads the Capitol's annual human trafficking awareness day.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Williams regularly speaks about health care issues and how funds are distributed in the state.
Williams serves as a board director for People's Health Center, where he helped develop a behavioral health care center for under-resourced children and is a member of the advisory boards for St. Louis Crisis Nursery, Nurses for Newborns and the University City Children's Center.
"Both Muriel and Sen. Williams have significantly contributed to child advocacy, and we are grateful for their leadership and passion for making our communities better for kids and their families," said Trish Lollo, president of St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Established in 1994 by St. Louis Children's Hospital, the Advocacy Award recognizes local and state leaders who leverage their positions, resources, and influence to do what's right for kids.
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