When Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast and devastated the area, Lisa Klein decided she wanted to do something to help. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area and with a one-year-old baby to take care of, she was not able to help in person but the next few weeks would lead her to create a non-profit that has gone on to help countless newborn babies since.
In her search for ways to help in the wake of the hurricane, she discovered a church that "had displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who had absolutely nothing; they needed blankets, medicines, sleeping bags, baby clothes."
Then, an idea hit her. She thought, "I have an attic full of baby clothes and I know a lot of other moms with baby clothes because this is my world now." To get her friends involved, she sent out an email and "within four days, I received 200 lbs of baby clothes. And if you know how small a little onesie is, 200 lbs is a lot of baby clothes."
Helped by such an outpouring of support, she quickly boxed all the clothes into "boy and girl boxes" and then sent them down to the church. They were then "distributed to newborns in need to keep them warm and clean and cosy."
Klein was very happy with the number of clothes she had been able to send to mothers who needed help to clothe their babies but she was not expecting what happened next.
She explains that "the next morning, I woke up and there was another 100 lbs of baby clothes. So what I did not know is those friends told friends who told friends and then clothes kept coming and coming, and they came to my front porch."
Klein started to think about what she could do with these new clothes and she came up with another idea: to help mothers and newborns locally in the San Francisco Bay Area. She continued to collect clothes from friends and friends of friends, and began to give the boxes away. "We started with hospitals at first, so social workers would give those boxes straight to the hospital," she says.
Thus, Loved Twice was born and since starting in 2005, Klein and her volunteers have collected over 50,000 lbs of baby clothes. That is approximately 375,000 garments with a very conservative estimate of $1 million in value.
Loved Twice collects clothes in a variety of ways. "We have collection bins up throughout the San Francisco Bay Area [and] a lot of stores and consignment stores gives us their excess inventory," explains Klein.
The clothes are collected from the stores and bins by volunteers who then deliver them to the Loved Twice headquarters. They are then sorted into boxes that contain enough clothes for a baby's first year: "a wardrobe in a box."
Once packed, the boxes are delivered to over 100 social service agencies around the Bay Area where they are then distributed to the babies that need them. Loved Twice does not make the deliveries directly to the mothers. As Klein says, "I rely 100 percent on the social workers who determine the need of these new mothers who are uninsured, homeless, have absolutely nothing... They know the needs in the community more than I do."
Since the downturn in the economy, Klein has seen an increase in the number of requests for clothes from social service agencies. More and more women are finding themselves in situations where they are unable to clothe their newborn child in the way they hope.
Sandra Tramiel, a public health nurse with IPOP, one of the social service agencies Loved Twice works with says, "I have not yet met a mom, a pregnant mom who is ready to deliver her baby, who does not want to bring the baby home in a new outfit. And so what Loved Twice has been able to do is to help us fill in the gaps to those moms who otherwise would not have that opportunity or to be able to provide them with additional clothes as their babies get older."
As a mother, Terez McCall greatly appreciated the clothes she received from Loved Twice.
Pregnancy is very stressful and then of course it can be very expensive. We've been homeless since last summer and I'm still working on getting things stable for us, and so I didn't even have money for maternity clothes, for basic things, let alone for my daughter. So knowing that she was going to come into the world and not be, you know, naked, that sounds silly but it made a big difference.
"I'm just one person and I can't do this on my own," says Klein, "so I totally rely on volunteers to help and it's amazing." Loved Twice is supported by about 400 volunteers who help in many ways, from collecting and packing clothes, to fundraising.
With this help from members across her community, Klein has created the momentum needed to help newborns who might otherwise "just be wearing an adult-sized t-shirt that's wrapped up at the bottom just so the baby can be kept warm." The most important thing is to support the babies and their mothers.
"I'm a mom and I have the resources to clothe my baby and there are mothers out there who have to worry, do they pay for diapers, do they pay for baby food, do they pay for clothing? Well, you're obviously going to feed your baby before you buy it a new hat so if Loved Twice can give that baby a hat, that's amazing"
Loved Twice encourages people to hold their own baby-clothes drives and has a how-to-guide here. To learn more about Loved Twice and to see how to send clothes or volunteer your time, please visit their website, Facebook page, and Twitter page. If you would like to send clothes to mothers in need, you can find mailing addresses on the Loved Twice homepage.