"As a mom of two girls, I want nothing more than for them to grow up as strong decision makers who go after what they want and make it happen. They're growing up and seeing that women can run for president, lead any company, and win gold medals. They believe women can do it as well, if not better, than men and it’s a belief I hope they keep strong as they head into the world." -- Kelly Sawyer Patricof
Baby2Baby, the non-profit founded by co-presidents Kelly Sawyer Patricof and Norah Weinstein is all about the diaper domino effect: providing children ages 0-12 with diapers, clothing, and the basic necessities that every child deserves to start life off right.
After meeting over dinner in Los Angeles, Kelly and Norah knew that they both wanted to “move into the [philanthropic] world exclusively, instead of having it on the periphery,” but weren't sure where to start. As moms themselves, they knew they wanted to help children and began to meet with various non-profits, asking where they could be most effective and most useful. Many of the narratives they heard highlighted the same problem: basics were in short supply. The diapers, the gear and clothing that allowed those in need to learn and benefit from their services. The idea for Baby2Baby was born. They knew plenty of women who had softly used or new goods that could be donated.
They started with 12k and an 800 square-foot space. A kickoff party at that space hosted 30 friends. Among those in attendance were Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba. Huggies took notice. “We got a call,” Norah says, “that Huggies wanted to send 100,000 diapers and $75,000. They asked if we accepted pallets.” The co-founders joke they had no idea what that meant at the time and they ended up unloading those 100,000 diapers themselves with the aid of one intern. “We gave them away in two days,” Kelly adds, which was eye-opening. The need was that great.
Their motto after that was simply to say yes. Items are now currently distributed to over 100 non-profit partner organizations.
What many people don’t realize is that diapers are not considered a necessity by the government and thereby not covered by food stamps. A third of mothers in the United States are forced to choose between diapers and food. In that exists a “cycle of poverty,” explains Norah. “You can’t send your child to daycare without diapers and you can’t go to work if you don’t have daycare.” Many childcare centers require 6-8 diapers per day, per child to attend. It creates a barrier many low-income families cannot topple on their own.
“We had big aspirations and dreams that many might have thought were unrealistic,” shares Kelly about their launch five years ago. But since its founding Baby2Baby has “reached those goals and we’ve served more low-income families that I had imagined we could.” They are nowhere close to being done or fulfilling the needs of struggling families. “I now realize,” says Kelly, “that it’s time to make bigger goals and push forward with confidence that we can meet them.”
In 2016 Baby2Baby served over 125,000 low income families in Los Angeles area and they are currently distributing more diapers than any other organization in the country. But the women divulge that there are over 300,000 children living in poverty in Los Angeles. “Our reach is big,” they say, “but it’s not reaching everyone.”
Yet the growth patterns bring optimism. In 2015 they expanded with their Baby2Baby National Network, extending the reach out of Los Angeles to an additional 20 cities in the United States. They also continue to gain the support of high-profile names. Mothers like Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, and Drew Barrymore. “We’re proud that it’s a group of moms and that the whole board is women,” they say.
And while the names help visibility Norah, a former lawyer who interned for President Clinton during his presidency, says her legal background helps as well. From dealing with corporate giving from big names like Disney and The Honest Company, to developing holiday product lines with Paul Mitchell, to putting donated products through their rigorous Baby2Baby golden standard, the day-to-day operations are every bit a business. “I loved my firm,” shares Norah, “but I knew I wasn't meant to defend securities litigation.” Instead she’s using her life and her acumen to defend the basic rights of mothers and children.
“To do that,” explains Kelly, “we need to ensure that the low-income children in our country, and around the world, have access to basic essentials—food, a solid education, diapers, schools supplies, clothing to keep them warm, and more. They need and deserve this foundation so that they can grow and succeed.” That’s why they are also focused on education and fighting laws in California that classify diapers as a luxury.
“Awareness is paramount and now more than ever our work is cut out for us,” says Kelly. “I strongly believe that to help women succeed we need to focus on helping girls succeed.”
With a staff of 20, a committed brother and sisterhood of volunteers, and clear goals in mind, they are on their way. "When I see people post about Sunday night blues and hump day, I cannot relate anymore," says Norah. "I love the work week and love what I do."