September 21, 2008
Oakland Mom Collects Baby Clothes for Women in Need
By Barbara Grady
By Barbara GradyOAKLAND -- When Lisa Klein gave birth to her first child five years ago, she couldn't help but think of the contrasts between her experience and those of some other Oakland moms.
Then 34 years old and eager to be a mom, Klein was surrounded by a loving husband, family and friends who were ready to dote on her new child. They had showered her with gifts and hand-me-down baby clothes. Still, once the baby was born, Klein felt overwhelmed by responsibility.
"I thought about what this must be like for people without resources and for mothers without husbands or supportive families," she said.
Klein turned those thoughts into action.
She has since supplied more than 1,000 new moms from Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward and New Orleans with blankets and baby clothes for their newborns.
Klein, with her own toddler and preschooler in tow, has collected 10,000 pounds of slightly used baby clothes -- yes, 10,000 pounds -- washed them, sorted them into boxes for individual moms to receive and donated the boxes to local hospitals and health clinics. At the hospitals, which include Highland Hospital, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Oakland, social workers have given them out to mothers and babies in need. Meanwhile, nurses at Asian Health Services' prenatal clinic have given Klein's boxes to expectant moms.
"When you are a new mom, you've got so much going on: You're learning how to take care of a new born baby, you (may have) postpartum depression and you're physically a little weak and very tired. You don't have time to go shopping," Klein said. "The babies deserve to be warm and cozy and clean, no matter what's going on in the mom's life."
Hospital officials say Klein's donations are well-received -- and urgently needed.
"Lots of our patients are in difficult financial situations," said An Nguyen, medical social worker for Highland Hospital's OBGYN unit. Highland, a part of the Alameda County Medical Center, does not turn any patient away. Many of the patients in labor and delivery are young, single moms with little or no income, Nguyen said.
"They are just so grateful when they get these boxes," Nguyen said. "What Lisa provides is very comforting to them. It's just so nice."
She recalled one 19-year-old homeless woman who asked nurses if she could keep the hospital blanket for her newborn. When Nguyen instead presented her with a whole box of blankets and clothing, the young woman wept in gratitude.
"The amazing thing is the boxes are not just one layette and a T- shirt," Nguyen said. "There are like 20 outfits in there and books and a toy. And each box has a blanket."
At Asian Health Services, patient Sihaam Omar said her older children need things for school so there is little money left over for her 7-month-old baby. Her family of six lives on her husband's part-time job at a gas station.
One day, a nurse gave her a box from Lisa Klein.
"I was very happy," Omar said. "I never met Lisa but she's good. She makes people happy."
At Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, where 8,200 babies are born a year, social worker Misty Schultz said the boxes have come to the rescue many times.
"They appear magically in the closet and then are available to help people and make sure they are ready," Schultz said. One place they've been crucial is the neo-natal intensive care unit, where most babies are born early and parents are sometimes caught unprepared.
"The moms' faces light up" when they are given a box, Schultz said.
Klein collects donations from bins she sets up at Cool Tops Cuts for Kids, a children's hair salon at 5697 Miles Ave. in Oakland and 3367 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette.
She also collects donations from Child's Play clothing consignment shop on 5858 College Ave. in Oakland, which donates what it doesn't sell, and in Marin County, from Playdate Cafe at 101 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo.
About once a week, Klein drives a route of pick up stops, her two children tucked into car safety seats in the back and bags of donations piling up around them.
At home, she washes the clothes and blankets and sorts them into boxes so each box has an assortment of supplies a baby would need, and marks each box "for a girl" or "for a boy." The empty boxes are donated by The Winemine winery in Oakland.
"I try to put in the box everything a baby would need in the first 12 months," Klein said. So a box typically contains a blanket or two, or a layette set, onesies, hats, pajamas, T-shirts, booties, several little outfits in graduated sizes and usually a book or two and a toy.
Klein's volunteer work -- which takes up at least 10 hours a week -- began when her first child had grown out of her baby clothing and Klein was wondering what to do with them. It was 2005, Hurricane Katrina had just hit New Orleans and Klein read a posting on the Internet from a church near the city. It was pleading with the outside world, via Craigslist, to help hundreds of hurricane victims camped out on its front lawn by sending supplies. It especially needed things for newborn babies.
"That's when I realized that's what I should do," Klein said. She sent 100 pounds of clothes that she and her friends collected to the Louisiana church.
Two years ago, Klein's son, Jack, was born and she again was prompted by emotions and abundance to help other moms.
"I realized I wanted to help moms in my own community," Klein said. "I live in Oakland, and I see there are people here who could really use some help."
So she started something much bigger, a baby clothes collection and delivery system that has, by now, become a registered nonprofit group with its own Web site "LovedTwice.org" and delivers 10,000 pounds of baby clothes a year.
She wants other moms to reach out to fellow moms with recycled baby clothes. Klein's Web site, www.lovedtwice.org, includes step- by-step instructions on how to donate.
"My heart goes out to the new mothers that don't have a strong family support system," Klein said. "The boxes I package are truly for them."Hometown Heroes, a partnership between Bay Area News Group- East Bay and Comcast, celebrates people in the Bay Area who make a difference in their communities. In addition to highlighting remarkable individuals, the Hometown Heroes feature aims to encourage volunteerism, raise visibility of nonprofits and key causes in the area and create a spirit of giving.
Read about a new Hometown Hero every other Monday and watch the program on Comcast On Demand at Channel One-Bay On Demand-Hometown Heroes.
Lisa Klein-- AGE: 39-- BORN: Royal Oak, Mich.-- OCCUPATION: Collects and distributes 10,000 pounds of baby clothes a year as a volunteer.-- FAMILY: Klein; her husband, Bill, and two children, 5- year-old Cali and 2-year-old Jack, live in Oakland.
Donate slightly used baby clothes to "LovedTwice" by bringing them to: Cool Tops Cuts for Kids, 5697 Miles Avenue, Oakland; Cool Tops for Kids, 3367 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette; Playdate Caf , 101 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo. Please no car seats or large toys. Visit www.lovedtwice.org for more information.
Originally published by Barbara Grady, Oakland Tribune.
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