Baby2Baby CEOs Kelly Sawyer Patricof and Norah Weinstein are at the forefront of relief for children and families during COVID-19. Through their organization and constant innovation, they have distributed over 40 million essential items to families most in need during the pandemic.
Baby2Baby went from a local volunteer group to a national organization when you took it over in 2011. How did you manage to spearhead that?
From day one, we were strategic about our mission and made sure that we were responding to an actual need. We took meetings with homeless shelters and Head Start centers, and we directly asked them what the children in poverty were lacking so we could respond to actual needs in the community. The answer was always the same — they needed diapers and other basic essentials. We focused on that mission and didn’t veer from it. Nine years later, we are still fulfilling that need — just on a much larger scale and across the country.
Baby2Baby has been at the forefront for COVID-19 relief. What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced?
Since March, Baby2Baby has distributed over 40 million essential items including diapers, formula, soap, shampoo, hand sanitizer, masks, baby food, and more to the most vulnerable children across the country. We were tasked with doing more with less resources — we had no volunteer force behind us, limited staff working in rotating shifts to keep our team safe, and the inability for thousands of social workers to pick up critical goods from our headquarters. We quickly adapted our distribution model to be 100 percent delivery based, increased our weekly distribution by 420 percent, and grew our COVID-19 emergency program to 90 cities across the country, all while facing unique challenges compounded by the pandemic.
How does the work of a nonprofit CEO vary day to day?
Every day is different, which keeps it interesting. Sometimes, we’re in meetings all day with our internal teams, negotiating corporate sponsorships, fundraising, and developing program initiatives. Other days, we are visiting homeless shelters, school districts, or hospitals. Before COVID-19, we were traveling to Sacramento to lobby for diaper bills, or Dallas or New York to host events with the children we serve there. Right now, we are on a lot of Zoom calls.
Although you’re a nonprofit, you operate as a traditional business. How has that been advantageous?
We operate like a traditional business because we have essentially the same goals as a for-profit company, even though we raise our money for the benefit of children in poverty. We have 30 full-time employees, a 21,000 square foot headquarters, and a $40 million operating budget between cash and in-kind values. We believe this mindset has allowed us to grow at a rapid pace and distribute 100 million basic essentials to families across the country over the last nine years.
What are the biggest challenges that you see new parents are currently facing?
Diapers have always been the number one item we distribute. One out of 3 moms in the United States struggle to afford diapers. Low-income families pay up to 14 percent of their after-tax income on diapers, and they are the fourth-highest household expenditure (after rent, food and utilities) for these families. Most importantly, daycares require a full day’s supply for children to be dropped off, so when moms can’t provide the requisite amount, they can’t get back to work or even go to a job interview.
Now during COVID-19, the families that we serve are struggling even more to afford diapers after months of lost income, lost jobs, and increased lack of access to these basic essentials. Moms and dads in our program have resorted to making homemade diapers out of newspapers and towels. When Baby2Baby can provide diapers and other essentials, families can use their extremely limited income to focus on food and shelter.
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