Learn more about Jessica’s story in our Q&A below.
VBGivesBack: Jessica Seinfeld
As Baby Buggy board members, supporters and volunteers, the Veronicas are excited to profile mother, author, philanthropist and Baby Buggy Founder Jessica Seinfeld this month.
Learn more about Jessica’s story in our Q&A below.
What gave you the idea to start Baby Buggy?
When our first child, Sascha, was born almost 15 years ago, I was astonished by how quickly she grew out of her clothing and gear. As items piled up in our closet, it weighed heavily on me how wasteful it was for it so sit there. These almost brand-new items were gathering dust, yet I knew somewhere near our apartment in NYC, there was a family who could put these outgrown items to good use. I polled my friends, who I found had amassed their own piles they wanted to give. So, we launched our first clothing and gear drive, only thinking it was a one-time event.
I was surprised the idea would strike such a chord, let alone that we would eventually be something so life-changing for many deserving families in this country.
How has the organization evolved over the past 15 years?
We went from being just an idea to a much relied upon and respected national organization, partnering with over 100 anti-poverty programs across the country. In the beginning we worked with crisis shelters. We went on to hone our model, integrating our donations with social services, such as job training and parenting support. This maximizes the impact of our resources. So a crib or a stroller can be used as incentives for parents to meet milestones in programs that will help them make positive changes that impact the whole family, and help break the cycle of poverty.
What are some of the hurdles faced by new parents that Baby Buggy focuses on?
Our families have to make tough choices every day to buy food, pay rent or buy diapers, and our donations help address immediate financial stress and strain. As the same time, we are focused on helping to improve the way the family functions. We focus on engaging fathers through our Fatherhood Initiative, because children in father-absent homes are 4 times more likely to be poor than children in two-parent homes.
What makes Baby Buggy so unique?
Through Baby Buggy, items like a pack of diapers, a stroller, or a coat, become life-changing for families because they help meet immediate needs of children, alleviate stress, and offer a parent some dignity because they can provide for their children in a way they often haven’t been able to before. At the same time, items, when paired with family service programs and support through our partners, end up being a gateway to positive change, helping to lift a family out of poverty. That’s the magic of our work: Goods, plus services, equals meaningful change.
Is there a special story that has stuck with you over the years?
It's hard to pick just one story of need- the mother who had to double her newborn twins in a single stroller, the children sent home from school for hygiene issues because their parents had to choose buying food over buying soap, the boy in his sister's hand-me-down pink winter coat and boots, the parents who can't afford a crib so they put their babies to bed in a dresser drawer or clothes hamper.... These types of stories are a daily occurrence for our organization.
What really haunts me are the stories of parents who lose custody of their children because they simply can't afford the basic necessities. Earlier this year we helped a dad in Los Angeles who lost custody of his child when his daycare provider called child services because he was bringing his daughter to school in makeshift diapers. It costs an hour and a half working a minimum wage job to buy a pack of diapers in LA or NYC, and you can't get diapers through WIC or EBT (food stamps), so he couldn't keep up with the need. Through our partnership with Project Fatherhood at the Children’s Institute, Inc., we were able to get him all the diapers he needed, including clothing, job training classes and more to allow him to get his child back. He's a caring and committed dad who now has the tools he needs to provide for his child.
Proudest moment since starting Baby Buggy?
I have moments all the time when I look around, shake my head and can’t believe the fantastic team we have built, the enthusiasm for our mission which surrounds us, and the respect we have earned from our support base and partners. There are many specific moments when we have helped families out of terrible circumstances, but I’d say in general, bringing some dignity, grace and happiness to families who are making do with almost no comfort or safety makes me want to work harder every day. I see firsthand that the work we are doing is important both physically and physiologically to a vulnerable population. It feels wonderful to be part of something that alleviates stress and helps parents function better. Baby Buggy serves as a constant reminder to my own family how lucky we are be part of something that really works.
What is your secret weapon?
Appreciation of just having the basics in life and never forgetting how I was raised and where I come from.
Motherhood in 3 words?
There is no way I can boil down such a big and dynamic role into three words.
How can someone get involved with Baby Buggy within their own community?
Donate, volunteer or give money. Ways to get involved with us can be found on www.babybuggy.org. Often new parents have baby showers benefitting Baby Buggy and now teens are running drives at their schools and becoming part of our Youth Service Program. We love that – kids helping kids.