Twelve years ago, Norah Weinstein and Kelly Sawyer Patricof set out with a shared vision to build something for children that would meet their most basic needs. Weinstein was a corporate attorney who gravitated toward pro bono cases, and Sawyer Patricof had been working as a model and volunteering at a Head Start center in New York. “We surveyed other nonprofits tackling poverty and listened carefully to feedback from homeless shelters, Head Start centers, and other social service agencies across L.A. – every single one of them said they needed diapers and other basic essentials,” Weinstein said.
Back then one in three families couldn’t afford diapers, today according to the National Diaper Bank Network, almost half of U.S. families can’t afford them. “To us, diapers represent a cycle of poverty – if parents don’t have enough diapers, they cannot drop their children at daycare to go to work or a job interview. When we provide families with diapers, they can put food on the table, pay rent, and hopefully get back on their feet.” Sawyer Patricof said.
The co-CEOs grew Baby2Baby as a $70 million national non-profit organization to address this need at scale and provide children living in poverty with all of the basic necessities that every child deserves. “We’re now serving more than one million children annually across all 50 states and have distributed more than 350 million items to children in underserved school districts, hospitals, homeless and domestic violence shelters and foster care,” Weinstein said.
On The Ground After Natural Disasters
Over the years, Baby2Baby’s Disaster Relief and Emergency Response Program has distributed more than 50 million emergency supplies to children impacted by disasters including fires,
earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes and other crisis situations. Most recently, the organization responded to the deadly wildfires on Maui.
“We have been addressing the needs of children and families in disasters for over a decade, so our team was well prepared to deploy after a crisis like the Maui wildfires hit. We also have partnerships with local organizations in all 50 states, and fortuitously already had supplies arrive in Hawaii the day before the fire as part of our year-round program,” Weinstein said.
Baby2Baby leveraged relationships in child-specific relief from local diaper banks like Aloha Diaper Bank to large-scale disaster response organizations like the Red Cross. They also activated their expansive network of partners including celebrity angels and supporters – among them were Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves McConaughey who funded a plane filled with critical supplies. “We also counted on longtime corporate partners including Honest, Thrive Market, Bobbie, Hello Bello, Paul Mitchell, Essentia, Bugaboo, Graco, Burst, Skechers, and others. Additionally, we worked with discounted cargo/freight carriers, which allowed us to get the supplies to Maui.”
Weinstein and Sawyer Patricof say they know recovery will take years, but that they will continue to support families on Maui as long as they need.
Earlier this year, Baby2Baby delivered millions of critical items to families impacted by catastrophic flooding in California and deadly tornadoes in Mississippi and Arkansas. They have been able to make a significant impact in alleviating the burden felt by families experiencing poverty from a variety of angles including manufacturing, distribution of essential items, advocacy, and partnerships with corporations and women who are leaders in their respective fields. “We have successfully led advocacy campaigns to have the diaper tax removed in California in 2020 and helped repeal it in other states. Today, we are continuing to advocate for removal in the remaining 27 states taxing families on diapers, which for a family living in poverty is an impossible additional expense. “In response to a 500 percent increase in diaper requests since the onset of the pandemic, we built our own diaper manufacturing system to maximize our ability to meet this need, allowing us to manufacture diapers for 80 percent less than the retail price, stretch donor funding further, and distribute up to 5x more. We stripped diapers of the bells and whistles of commercial brands, creating deep discounts without sacrificing quality.” Sawyer Patricof said.
This year, Baby2Baby was selected for a pilot program by the Biden Administration alongside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to combat the maternal mortality crisis, delivering essentials to new mothers immediately after giving birth. The Newborn and Maternal Supply Kits are made up of essential newborn items and maternal health items. The program is distributing 3,000 of the kits across Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico – three states experiencing deep levels of family poverty and the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. “We encourage anyone interested in getting involved in our work to visit baby2baby.org or connect with us on Instagram @baby2baby.
The Secret to Baby2Baby’s Success
Weinstein and Sawyer Patricof believe their success comes down to two things: their team and the families they serve. “We have a team of 50, and have cultivated the most dynamic group of women as part of our Board and Angel ambassadors. They include entrepreneurs and business leaders, actresses and influential women from across industries. They are true advocates in supporting our mission and raising millions of dollars for Baby2Baby to support children in need. And, most importantly, we continue listening to the families. Whether it was a decade ago in Los Angeles or last month in New Orleans or last week in Maui, the families experiencing poverty or disasters can teach us what is needed.