VB Gives Back

#VBGIVESBACK: Mary Kitchen

December 1, 2017

Since launching in 2001, GOOD+ Foundation has donated more than $35 million in goods to families living in poverty with the support of over 50,000 volunteers. The organization works to break the cycle of poverty by pairing goods with services that benefit the entire family. The incredible impact this organization has had on families is what inspired Mary Kitchen to first volunteer her time in New York City. Now as a board member, Mary dedicates her time to growing the foundation’s presence in Los Angeles and creating new volunteer opportunities.Read more about her work in the interview below and shop today to support the cause!

Tell us about the name change from Baby Buggy to GOOD+ Foundation, how did this come about?

Jessica Seinfeld started Baby Buggy 16 years ago in New York City to help children in need after 9/11. As our organization grew, our old name, Baby Buggy, seemed out of step with what the organization was becoming. The new name, GOOD+ Foundation, represents our unique model, which is to pair critical goods – like diapers, car seats and cribs – with services that reward a family’s participation in programs that help improve their lives and raise them up out of poverty. Through the goods PLUS the services GOOD+ now helps serve the whole family, not just babies.

What is the mission of GOOD+ Foundation?

Our mission is to help families in need. We partner with a network of programs to pair our donated goods with their family services. Our goods incentivize parents to enroll in programs, designed to give them the tools to get a job, earn their GED, or put a roof over their children’s heads.

How did you first get involved with the organization?

After I had my first daughter, I was living in New York, feeling overwhelmed with all of the baby stuff flooding into our apartment. A friend told me about Jessica’s foundation and how it would be a great way to declutter and get it all out of my house. What she really meant was that I needed to get out of the house.

I called GOOD+ to arrange a pick-up for my donations and asked if they would take a volunteer. As soon as I walked into the New York warehouse, I knew I was in the right place. I had entered recycling heaven! That first glance at the stacks of strollers, diapers, winter coats and gently-used clothes and toys made a lasting impression on me.

I knew how powerful that visual was and that one day, it would be a great way to get my children to understand the power of giving. As I spent more time helping, I realized how lean and effective the foundation is. It spurred me to want to help more and convince friends to get involved. I am proud to be both a “friend” of GOOD+ and a member of its board of directors.
Mary Kitchen and GOOD+ founder Jessica Seinfeld.

As a board member, what initiatives are you the most involved in?

I have been involved with national scale-up, but since relocating to LA, I’ve been focusing my efforts on growing our presence here. I’ve worked to expand our community drives and drop sites, which provides an easy way for parents to donate.

We are also creating more opportunities for volunteerism. I’m about to host my second holiday wrapping party at my home in Los Angeles. Last year, we bundled welcome baskets for young, at-risk mothers and we wrapped toys for other kids in our programs. People love bringing their kids to teach them about giving back.

What do you love most about being a part of GOOD+?

The thing that I love most about GOOD+ Foundation is having the opportunity to connect to the community that we live in. It’s really easy living in this country to be disconnected from our neighbors, and now more than ever, we need to know and listen to one another.

It’s very important for me to feel like my kids are connected to what is really happening in a city like Los Angeles and for them to understand that our luck is not shared by all.

I love visiting our partner programs and meeting my fellow neighbors of all ethnicities, religions, political and socioeconomic background and views, and trying to better understand how we can help address the problems that many of our low-income neighbors’ face. I’m also very proud that we give the families we serve the opportunity to attend the family fundraisers we host in NYC and LA. It removes some of the barriers and reminds us that we are all in this together.

What sets the foundation apart from others?

There are many great organizations seeking to help families in need and alleviate poverty. What sets us apart from other organizations is that we have learned that to improve the life of a child, you have to focus on the family as a whole. Our donations ensure that parents get their GED, complete a job training course, or even learn how to parent their child. Parents are then more likely to pass their knowledge on to their kids, lowering the chances that the cycle will continue.

Our Fatherhood Initiative seeks to get dads more involved in their kids’ lives. We know that fathers who struggle financially tend to be less involved in their children’s life. And a child without a father, is more likely to fail out of school, go to jail and remain in poverty. That is a travesty.

How has GOOD+ worked with victims of the recent natural disasters?

Several years ago, we had to react quickly when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and we learned through trial and error how to provide support in a thoughtful way. When the hurricanes hit this year, we were able to use our experience to respond to the need immediately. During Hurricane Harvey, we distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in products to partner programs on the ground in Houston and other communities affected. With the help of some generous donors, like Veronica Beard, and corporate donors like Ross Dress for Less, Seventh Generation, Skip Hop, Summer Infant and Medela, we have been able to help thousands of families begin to rebuild their lives.

How is the organization involved in the community in Los Angeles?

Our model is to partner with effective non-profit organizations in the LA community, pairing our donated goods with their on-the-ground services. For example, we partner with Eisner Health in Downtown LA and Lynwood to improve outcomes for new mothers, with organizations such as The Children’s Institute and Homeboy Industries to engage fathers, and with free medical clinics like the Venice Family Clinic to support early child development.

I just did a site visit at Homeboy Industries in Downtown LA. The organization is run by Father Greg Boyle who employs and trains former convicts to help them re-enter life here in LA. They run the most amazing bakery along with other businesses. It’s such an inspiring place to be and see how our goods support moms and dads that are getting counseling and learning new job and life skills through their program.

What kind of impact has GOOD+ Foundation had to date?

In the past few years alone, we have grown our network to more than 150 anti-poverty programs across the country, launched our Fatherhood program, and supported national disaster relief. Since we launched in 2001, we have donated more than $35 million in goods to families living in poverty with the support of more than 50,000 volunteers. So much GOOD already and so much more to come!

What is your advice for those that want to give back in their communities?

Find an organization that speaks to your heart! The first time I walked into the GOOD+ Foundation’s warehouse, I knew that this would be a long relationship. I saw how lean their staff was, and how huge of an impact those few were making in our community. I feel privileged to be able to give back and be given the opportunity through GOOD+ to connect with people who I would not normally encounter in my day to day life. I’m forever grateful to Jessica Seinfeld and my GOOD+ family for all of the families they have ever helped. I look forward to the work we all have ahead of us.

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