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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedVolunteer Spotlight: The 'Diaper Lady,' Peggy McDowell, Tomahawk, Wisconsin
  

Peggy McDowell says she is known throughout the convention grounds as the "diaper lady" and is recognized by the flower hat on her head.

Peggy McDowell says she has the "cushiest" volunteer job at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh complete with air conditioning and ice water. But that wasn't what she was looking for in 1988 when she came to the fly-in convention with her one-month-old son.

She just wanted a quiet, cool place to care for her baby. She found the Mother/Baby Nursing Hangar and started volunteering there the following year.

Along came a daughter in 1991 and Peggy continued helping. Now, with her children 20 and 17, Baby Services has become a family project. Peggy and her husband, Bill, cave co-chaired since the early 1990s.

"We aren't pilots," says McDowell, who lives in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. "We're just enthusiasts who do this because we love hanging around airplane people."

Baby services started more than 20 years ago as a subgroup of emergency services, McDowell says. In the beginning, their one building was located by the control tower. Now they have multiple locations and larger diaper-changing stations.

"And they're never located by water," McDowell says of the changing stations. "So we have to haul buckets and rags to clean them out. It's my husband's and son's job to do the dirty work."

One year there was a storm and the buildings were covered in mud, she recalls. So she went to maintenance and asked to borrow a pressure washer; they didn't have one, but told her to check with the volunteer firefighters.

"I went over with doughnuts, and asked if they needed to do a training run," McDowell says. "I told them what the deal was and asked if they could help."

They did. "They practically blew the paint off," McDowell says, laughing.

Another year they opened one of the buildings to find the floor covered - 2 or 3 inches thick - with dead bees. "The bees had gotten in the ceiling, and somebody had sprayed and just shut the door," McDowell says. "That's why we always go early to see if there are any little surprises. We actually shoveled the bees out."

McDowell says they normally arrive about a week early to clean out the buildings and get everything ready. Then, during the convention, they service the buildings, making sure they are well stocked, sanitizing the toys and wiping down the changing tables between customers.

While they don't provide babysitting services, they have been known to occasionally hold a baby for a mom in need of a "pit stop," McDowell says.

"But a lot of what we do is help people find the kind of things they need that they didn't think they would need," she says.

McDowell says her kids have grown up at Oshkosh, and look forward to it every year. "I get volunteer hours out of them, but they, too, come for the people."

Just like their mom.

"For me, AirVenture is all about being with some of the most wonderful people anywhere," McDowell says. "The planes are just pretty things to have around while we have fun."

 

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