On August 3, Busy Philipps gave US Weekly a major scoop. With preparations for her daughter’s birthday underway, the actress opened up about party plans, gift ideas, and who would be making the cake. She just happened to be helping a room full of kids into pastel-colored backpacks as she did. There, in the middle of Baby2Baby’s Back2School event, Busy Philipps smiled for the camera.
A Media Darling
Not coincidentally, the story that US ran was as much a love letter to Baby2Baby as it was a standard of celebrity gos-sip. The high-gloss photo at the top of the piece featured an ecstatic Philipps handing out polka-dotted backpacks to a table of young children.It’s not unusual for Baby2Baby to grace the pages of major celebrity news outlets.
The Los Angeles–based non-profit, which is led by former fashion model Kelly Sawyer Patricof and lawyer Norah Weinstein, boasts a Twitter feed stacked with photos and retweets from the Hollywood elite. From Rachel Zoe to Kerry Washington, these popular culture icons form the backbone of Baby2Baby’s publicity efforts, donating their time, resources, and spotlight to the organization and the 125,000 low-income children it helps diaper and clothe. “I’m getting my own kids ready for school and we’re going back-to-school shopping; it all really adds up,” Philipps told the magazine reporter, before going on to explain that her daughter wouldn’t be asking for gifts this year—she would be asking for Baby2Baby backpack do-nations instead.
“Rather than reinvent-ing the wheel, we wanted to respond to the community’s needs. These were very clearly the community’s needs.”
Bringing Up Baby2Baby
Patricof and Weinstein took Baby2Baby over in 2011. In its early years, the organization operated out of the garages and via the email chains of its three female founders, with a $12,000 annual budget. By partnering with local preschools and social service agencies, the nonprofit provided gently used clothing and gear to roughly 500 low-income children across the greater LA area. It was a phenomenal idea on a very small scale, Patricof explains. “Rather than reinvent-ing the wheel, we wanted to respond to the community’s needs. These were very clearly the community’s needs.”
In the five years since Patricof and Weinstein entered the picture, Baby2Baby has taken off. Today, the duo and their team of eighteen full-time staff provide diapers, gear, and other essentials to a network of 125,000 low-income children up to age 12. They run drives in schools and office complexes, and partner with Southern California businesses including Whole Foods and Dry Bar. Celebrities like Kate Hudson donate clothing from their children’s lines en masse and partner with organizations such as Huggies, daring them to do the same.
Baby2Baby’s Tweet to Give campaigns—Patricof approves each tweet herself—have garnered an impressive corporate roster. “I’ve always been perfectly straightforward and comfort-able asking people for things, whether they’re a celebrity supporter or not,” says Patricof. When asked what sets the Los Angeles philanthropic community apart from New York’s, where both women have roots, Weinstein is blunt. “The biggest difference is money—they have more of it. Where we see a silver lining, though, is that at Baby2Baby we have a very young set of philanthropists, and in many instances we feel like this is the first time that many of our donors feel close to a cause in the way they do with Baby2Baby.”
It’s not just celebrities and corporations lining up to help. The Baby2Baby community is strong, with over 6,500 volunteer hours logged in 2015 and a line of intern applicants wrapping around the block. Going NationalAs Baby2Baby grew, word of their work spread. The network of social services groups distributing Baby2Baby’s wares across the city wasn’t quiet about the nonprofit’s output.
Patricof and Weinstein began fielding calls from area codes in Chicago, Baltimore, Denver—calls from organizations and low-income mothers desperate for resources. Around this time, a baby bottle manufacturer in Los Angeles closed its doors, donating 86,000 bottles to Baby2Baby. When the plant’s east coast counterpart was also shut down, a second shipment was imminent, putting the women at an impasse. Patricof and Weinstein couldn’t turn the donation down, but they also couldn’t justify shipping another 80,000 bottles back to LA when there were babies on the east coast who needed them.
“There are some 600,000 children living in poverty in Los Angeles and that number is so much higher throughout the country…We’ve gone from 0 to 125,000 and we don’t want to stop at anything.”
Their answer was the Baby2Baby National Network, launched in May 2015. The network is composed of 19 organizations that distribute Baby2Baby gear to children in 20 cities nationwide. Rather than pretending to understand the landscape of need in unfamiliar terrain, Patricof and Weinstein have formed partnerships with existing community organizations, honing in on groups with a proven track record of success. Beyond providing resources and fostering corporate connections, Baby2Baby also pro-vides advice on issues including scale, staffing, and grant writing. The National Network held its second annual summit at the Baby2Baby headquarters in May 2016, sponsored by Delta.
The Diaper Divide
Baby2Baby has launched a number of other initiatives in response to the needs of their community, including the Sweet Dreams Initiative, a large-scale crib drive, and bundle programs that provide comfort items to children in hospitals and the foster system.Still, Patricof and Weinstein are clear when it comes to what’s driving them—diapers.
The organization has distributed over 8 million diapers in the last five years, with some 2.5 million diaper donations in 2015 alone.
At this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, President Obama delivered a speech on the diaper divide, the first of its kind. He painted a picture of the crisis, highlighting that the average low-income family in the U.S pays up to twice as much for diapers, comprising 14% of their after tax income, and launched an initiative calling upon companies and manufacturers to make diapers more affordable for low-income families.
Baby2Baby is at the forefront of these efforts. The organization has distributed over 8 million diapers in the last five years, with some 2.5 million diaper donations in 2015 alone. This makes them one of the largest diaper banks in the country. “We’re considering 2016 ‘The Year of the Diaper’ at Baby2Baby,” Weinstein explains. “Diapers are, both symbolically and literally, the most important item we distribute.
It’s the item families request first, second, and third.” The organization plans to distribute an-other 5 million in the year to come. They also realize that donation alone is not enough, which is they’ve launched advocacy efforts for diaper reform in Sacramento and D.C. The is-sue has some traction these days but Patricof and Weinstein are realistic. They know that the road to reform won’t be easy, and they’re continuing to work in their sweet spot while plotting out their long game. Jennifer Garner, the 2016 Baby2Baby Giving Tree honoree, brought in over 1.3 million diapers this year, and in the fall they’ll be partnering with a trendy children’s salon in New York (think Jolie-Pitt and Co.) to run a major school supply drive.
“There are some 600,000 children living in poverty in Los Angeles and that number is so much higher throughout the country,” Weinstein explains. “Our real goal is to get to all of them. We understand that this might seem naive but we don’t think so. We’ve gone from 0 to 125,000 and we don’t want to stop at anything.”