Author Archives: Lisa

First Lady Michelle Obama, won’t you help a mother out?

keepcalmblue

Yesterday First Lady Michelle Obama came to San Francisco’s Bayview district to kick off the call to public service United We Serve. How cool is that? She was joined by California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver and Craig Newmark (recall his blog post on little ‘ol us). United We Serve is slated to continue through September 11, 2009, but we hope that this will inspire countless citizens to continue their altruism long after the summer initiative is over.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The administration conceived the initiative as a way to encourage more Americans to address problems in their communities, especially in four key areas: education, health, energy and the environment.

“We have an administration that understands that service is the key to achieving our national priorities,” Obama said later Monday in a keynote address to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco.

To coincide with this national call to service, Craig and his team have launched a new website All For Good, which is basically Craiglist meets volunteerism. At HAMO world headquarters we are very excited about all of this public service hoopla, which brings me to the next item: let’s talk about US.

People always ask: Why did you start Help A Mother Out? For the backstory, you can read Rachel’s post on our origins, but the short and sweet version is simply – we did not have time to volunteer at a homeless shelter. For me, my hands are literally tied behind my back during the day with two young children.  SAHMs you know what I am talking about. I personally had NO business starting HAMO, but once Rachel and I dug deeper into these issues, by golly, how could we not go down the rabbit hole?

The point I am trying to make is that it doesn’t take much to help out another mother – even if you are a busy and over taxed parent. We hear from all of the agencies we partner with that families have to make the tough choice between food or diapers. This is something we ALL can help with, and it doesn’t take an endowment or fat bank account. In a not-so-roundabout way I’m asking you, dear Readers (and First Lady Michelle Obama, in the one-zillionth of a chance we show up on your radar) is, during this national initiative, that you buy some diapers for a needy mom. If you are reading this post, consider this YOUR CALL TO PUBLIC SERVICE.

The next time you have an urge to indulge in retail therapy, the next time you go to buy anything for yourself on Amazon.com, the next birthday or new baby you celebrate, the next time you find yourself at Target ($13.99 for a case of 96-count Target brand diapers!) or Costco, pick up an extra pack or a case of diapers/wipes. You can drop it off at any one of our local drop bins or even better, shop the HAMO administered Amazon.com wishlists and ship it DIRECT to the agency of your choice. By the way, we’ve added Los Angeles Diaper Drive and the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona to our list of diaper bank partners, and our gift card offer is good for them too.

I recently came across this blog post from Feministing that was asking readers where they choose to donate. For me, this was such a timely post, because just yesterday we received our first repeat gift card request. The donor is someone who probably bought diapers in honor of Mother’s Day. This time, the request was to honor a birthday, and the person bought TWO cases of diapers. The Feministing post and this gift card request reminded me how much it makes me feel good to give and receive gifts that honor doing good in the community in a very direct and tangible way.

We hope that you will join us as we piggyback on the First Lady’s United We Serve initiative. We are working on our next community drive and have enlisted some amazing people, hopefully including yourself.  Please stay tuned to find out specifics in the coming weeks.

Your turn: What are the opportunities you see with the First Lady’s call to public service? Does your community group or organization have any United We Serve plans? Please share them with us here.


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The Bay Area Diaper Bank Has Closed Its Doors

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As previously reported, The Bay Area Diaper Bank recently closed due to lack of funding. If you think you might be interested in taking over the diaper bank, we can put you in touch with the right folks. Email us info (at) helpamotherout (dotorg).

With permission we are repubishing this communication written by Todd Madigan, Director of Development and Communications at  Sacred Heart Community Service. Like all of the agencies we are working with, SHCS is seeing a huge uptick in the amount of families in crisis. Food or diapers: which would you choose?

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After her second visit in as many days, the social worker made the following entry in her case notes: “The eight-month old is still wearing the same diaper she had on when I visited yesterday morning.”

Julia’s family was struggling. The two jobs she worked provided enough money for rent, but left her strained for the rest of her needs. She wanted so desperately to provide a good life for her two girls, but things were getting more difficult.

Eventually she started receiving food stamps, and on one of her first trips to the grocery store, having just paid rent, she placed her items onto the checkout counter, relieved that her girls would be taken care of for another week. The clerk scanned each item, and after totaling everything, Julia slid her EBT card, thankful that she had calculated so precisely.

Standing at the register with a long line behind her was when Julia was told that food stamps do not cover diapers—they are not a basic need.

The closure of the Bay Area Diaper Bank has struck at the heart of our community’s most vulnerable families. The average cost of diapers for one child is $100 per month, an expense that is simply impossible for most of those we serve. This is all the more troubling when we recall that infants who are not changed frequently enough—with the resultant skin irritation and consequent fussing—are more likely to be abused.

Over the past year, the Diaper Bank has provided a quarter million diapers to some 20 agencies, but its last delivery was this month, coinciding with Mother’s Day. Please consider helping us provide this critical service.

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Thank you Cubes & Crayons for Helping a Mother Out! Most recently, we sponsored a diaper drive at Cubes & Crayons, Silicon Valley campus, benefiting SHCS. C&C members were able to raise about 2500 diapers! Would your group like to try and beat C&C’s record?

We can help YOU host a diaper drive for SHCS .* Simply email us info (at) helpamotherout (dotorg). We have a diaper drive toolkit we can give you with easy steps on how you can raise diapers. If you think you would like to help today with a few easy clicks and the cost of a modest dinner out, consider purchasing a case of diapers or wipes off their Amazon.com wishlist. It ships direct to SHCS and is tax deductible. Check out our FAQ if you have more questions.

*In addition to SHCS, we can help you host a diaper drive for any one of the agencies we are working with throughout California. Check out our partners – the people who are doing direct work with families in crisis. We can help you reach out to one in your own community. Come join us!

How the Budget Cuts Have Impacted My Family

Today’s guest post is from our newly minted super hero – Ms. Angie in San Diego. Angie is a senior at UCSD and a single mother to a little girl. After years of hardship, and super-human determination, a college degree is finally in sight for her. What keeps her up at night is not celebrating her collegiate accomplishments, but her own worries of whether or not her family will be homeless before she is able to graduate. As reported in our previous post, our state is in danger of completely losing our safety net programs, including CalWORKS and Healthy Families. Read Angie’s story to learn how these program cuts will directly effect her family and countless other “little stories” in our communities.

Thank you, Angie, for the honor of sharing your story with our readers. You are AMAZING.

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Before I went back to school, I was working full time. I was working nights, for just above minimum wage. During the day I spent all of my time raising my daughter. Child care was not a financial possibility, and I can never repay my sister for watching my little girl during those long nights. Diapers were expensive, and those of us with young kids would fight over the marked down open packs of diapers. During those years I got further and further into debt, since my paycheck rarely covered basic needs. It was then that I decided to go back to school. I debated it for months, worrying about the financial impact, the emotional impact on my self esteem that I knew would suffer tremendously if I went on State Aid. Welfare. Welfare. We now call it “State Aid”, we call Food Stamps “EBT Cards”, but the ego and self-esteem destroyers remain the same. Spending hours in the offices, one line after another, waiting, waiting, waiting to be called to a window, a room. Paperwork in triplicate, documentation, documentation, fingerprinting, and all of the disdain that comes with it from the workers behind the glass, behind the partition, behind the door at the “house visits”, which are house inspections, looking into every drawer and pantry of your life.

I am currently almost done with school. I have worked part-time the entire time I was going to school, while also receiving Welfare. Even though there were many times I felt like quitting after having to take time off of either work or school to meet with a worker or fill out more paperwork, I hung in there. There were times when I thought, “This would be easier if I just quit school, got a regular job and stayed paycheck to paycheck forever. I can’t handle the constant negotiation and renegotiation to trying to figure out the right thing to say or do to make it with the Welfare office.”

But I held on, going on and off herbal and medical anti-depressants, ranting to an empty house and at the end of the month an empty fridge. I will have my BA at the end of the summer, and from that point on be able to forever take care of my family without any extra help. That is, if I can make it through these budget cuts. I dropped some of my classes over this last year because of cancer in my family. We lost two very loved and very much missed members of my family with in a year of each other. I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy. It was the most horrific thing I have ever been witness to, and to have to go through it all again so soon almost broke my spirit. I do not regret taking the time off since the precious time I spent with my Aunt and then her eldest daughter is something I could never replace. However, it has left me with no Financial Aid, and my hours at work are down to nothing.

If these budget cuts go through, my family will most likely be cut, since we have been on Welfare for a while now. Taking away CalWorks leaves us in dire straights. I cannot find a job that will work with the hours I need, and absolutely cannot afford childcare. We don’t receive a lot, only $286.00 a month in cash, but I have managed to make it stretch to keep us afloat. Without that money, we will be homeless. I do my best to make the Food Stamp money last as well, but fresh fruit and veggies are a beginning of the month luxury. It breaks my heart to hear my daughter proudly tell me that her friends were so nice to give her the extra food left over from their lunches. My guts wrench when she looks me in the eyes and says, “Pasta again mom? I don’t want to eat pasta again”, after the third or fourth time this week. The stress of the budget cuts keep me up at night, wondering if we will make it until the cuts go through. Wondering how we will survive if they actually do go through. We are borderline homeless now. Without that little bit of help…

I only need it for a few more months, but I know there are others that need more time. San Diego is a very expensive place to live, and most people have no extra money, let alone the money to move.  These cuts mean real things to real people, and this truly is the last thing we need in this economy. So many of us are barely surviving, why do you want to send us families to the streets?

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Dear Readers:  Please take a moment to share your thoughts with Ms. Angie by posting a comment below.

Katie Couric’s Spotlight on Kids, Part 2

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Greetings from sunny California, the breadbasket of the world.

This week the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric continued their Children of the Recession report. Most recently, they interviewed a 13 year old boy, named Lewis Roman, living in a single room at a Philadelphia shelter, with his mother and several siblings. Lewis tells CBS:

“I don’t like letting nobody … know I’m hungry,” he says. Lewis told me about trying to fall asleep (and sometimes not being able to) as a way to deal with hunger. He told me how he’ll get so hungry that he’ll feel like throwing up.”

Ms. Couric continues:

Hunger in America isn’t what you might think. In extensive phone calls and while doing research for this story, I learned that a child may technically be eating something but can still be hungry – and thus damaging IQ and impairing cognitive growth. Perhaps a child’s last meal was a bowl or cereal or box of inexpensive noodles. While technically they may have eaten something, it wasn’t nutritious enough to help them develop. When a child is growing — it’s particularly important in years 0-5) – what little of nutritional value consumed is going to basic organ and body development, and the brain is starved of the nutrients it needs.

I have to admit, both Rachel and I weren’t sure if CBS and Katie Couric were going to be able to make good on their promise to keep coming back to these issues. Call me a cynic, but without the mainstream media shining a light on these issues, the American public will soon forget about these little stories after the news cameras go away. CBS and Ms. Couric, if you are reading, it would be an amazing public service if you spun off this segment into a special program, a la Harvest of Shame.

I keep thinking about this one article I read on poverty and hunger in America. These words keep coming back to me:

That kind of poverty is inherently less visually spectacular than a tent city. It’s less likely to get Oprah’s TV audience up in arms. But when the damage from the economic collapse is finally accounted, it is these millions of little stories that will likely leave the most enduring imprint on America’s social landscape.

Millions of little stories add up to something greater. In 20 years we will be older and our babies will have grown up. They will be living in a society with the kids who go hungry TODAY. We hear from all of our partnering agencies that the families who come to them for help are having to make tough choices between food and diapers.

This is *such* a big issue, let’s not bury our head in the sand. Here are some people who turned rhetoric into action:

The Lemon Lady collects fresh produce to donate to Contra Costa food banks. You should check out her blog to get some great ideas on non-profit gardening.

Taking a more punk rock approach, Secret Freegan, rescues food from grocery store dumpsters and donates it to homeless shelters. We follow this person on Twitter, and you should too. Check out their blog here, if only for the pictures of food waiting to go to the county dump.

Have you heard of anyone else who is doing good on this issue? Tell us about them here.

Thank You From Brighter Beginnings!

Brighter Beginnings Staff With Donated Diapers

Brighter Beginnings Staff With Donated Diapers

Thank you to all of our readers and supporters who purchased diapers for Brighter Beginnings! Because diapers are the HIGHEST NEED, and in such short supply, Brighter Beginnings must ration out their supply to ONLY THREE  diapers per emergency case! Because of YOU, our friends at Brighter Beginnings were able to help many of the families who came to them for help in Oakland, Antioch, and Richmond.

We wanted to share with you the following communication we received from our friends at Brighter Beginnings to let you know how we made an IMPACT.

Emergency service resources are always in short supply for families without financial means, but in recent months the need has increased dramatically. Local food bank resources are low, and money that may have been going to basic needs is now going toward food.  Families receiving public assistance have only a few hundreds dollars every month to make ends meet, including rent, utilities, and household needs, and working families are struggling just as hard.  One of the most expensive items in a home with a baby is diapers. This spring, Brighter Beginnings has seen the need for diapers at least triple, especially toward the end of the month when money isn’t stretching as far as it used to and parents are forced to make tough choices.

Rosa, a client with a 22 month old and a newborn, was unable to purchase diapers until she received her paycheck, which was eleven days away.  Andrea, who has 6 month old twins, was just a few days away from the first of the month, but had to choose between diapers and the utilities bill, which was already late.  Sammy, a single dad with a 14 month old daughter, was just laid off and has no savings.

Brighter Beginnings was able to help these parents and more get through a few more days with the generous donations through Help a Mother Out, which provided over 1800 diapers and over 30 packs of wipes to our agency with this Mother’s Day campaign.  While these donations will help in the short-run, the need for emergency diapers is ongoing.

WE DID HELP A MOTHER OUT in a PRACTICAL and DIRECT way. Thank you EAST BAY folks, for being a part of our community campaign!

NOTE: HAMO’s current diaper tally for Brighter Beginnings clocks in at 2802 diapers. This only counts diapers donated via the Amazon.com wishlist.

As of May 27, 2009 our estimated TOTAL diaper count was 12, 154. We will have a more complete update and tally for our May donation campaign efforts in mid June.

What’s It Worth To You?

via Whimsical Walney

via Whimsical Walney

Today’s guest post is by Dana from Whimsical Walney. With her blog The Adventures of Whimsical Walney, Dana is a dedicated advocate for amending CPSIA legislation. For those unfamiliar with the cause, countless small business owners, including Dana, have been forced to close their doors (in this recession, no less) due to the CPSIA’s very broad mandate of third party testing of children’s products.

We know you are just going to love her story. Thank you, Dana, for Helping Some Mothers Out!

It seems like such a simple, straightforward question, but it is isn’t. There are just too many ways to assign value to the multitude of tangible things that surround as well as the relationships and the community we cultivate.

Sometimes, however, we are forced to find answer. In May of this year, I had to close my business because of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CSPIA). All of a sudden, I was faced with this question as it relates to the remainder of my business assets and I found that I didn’t have an answer at the tip of my tongue.

Like most, I immediately started to determine how I might recoup at least some of my start-up capital; but the question kept nagging at me.

What’s it worth to you?

No magic number came to mind. My Use Your Words™ t-shirt line was the result of a passion for childhood education and a lot of hard work. How in the world does anyone truly quantify that? You can’t.

Still, the voice in my head asked, “what’s it worth to you?”

And then the answer became clear: my clothing is most valuable to me when worn by a child. My wish has always been that my shirts became one of a child’s all-time favorites.

When I finally put it in its proper context, I realized that there is no value to me when I attempt to haggle with a prospective buyer at the flea market. There is no value to me when I create a listing on Ebay or Etsy in the hopes that I move 10 or 20 more shirts before suspending sales all together. That’s just wasted time, really, when a child in need could have a new shirt all his or her own.

I had always intended to donate some of my product, but didn’t understand how strongly I felt about it until confronted with the challenge of closing my business. So after some great conversations with the ladies at Help a Mother Out, I had a local contact at the San Jose Family Shelter and a weight was lifted from my shoulders.

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I was so excited about making a donation to this wonderful organization, not only did I hand-pick a selection of almost 80 baby and children’s shirts, but I also went through my own closet to see what I could donate to these families. Oh and of course I couldn’t arrive without a couple packs of diapers!

After dropping off the goodies and touring the facility, I drove away daydreaming (and still do) about a child who will finally have a new shirt of his own to wear on his first day of school, or a mom excited to have a never-worn bodysuit for her baby.

It feels like my own Mastercard commercial because this experience was priceless.

CA Safety-Net Program Cuts: Tell Us Your Story!

“A society in crisis should not throw women, children, and seniors overboard first.” ~ California Assemblymember Noreen Evans

This week there does not seem to be a whole lot of media coverage regarding the Governor’s proposed program cuts. Thank you San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times for practicing real journalism and covering the story.

Are you a parent who will be directly effected IF the state’s safety-net programs CalWORKS or Healthy Families are CUT out of the budget? Please TELL US YOUR STORY by posting a comment HERE (you can post anonymously).  We want to hear REAL STORIES from REAL FAMILIES on how this will directly change your life.

Per California Assemblymember Noreen Evans’ budget blog, here is a partial list of services that will be effected should the cuts happen:

· Elimination of the CalWORKs program;
· Elimination of the Healthy Families Program;
· Eliminating certain Medi-Cal state-only programs;
· Elimination of community based services programs at the Department of Aging;
· Eliminate State funding for Community Care Licensing;
· Elimination of remaining General Fund for Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health;
· Elimination of funding for community clinic programs, such as Rural Health Services and the Seasonal and Agricultural and Migratory work programs;
· Elimination of funding for drug treatment programs established by the voters through Proposition 36;
· Reducing in-home supportive services eligibility and care provider pay;
· Reducing funding for foster care rates; and
· Reducing SSI/SSP monthly payments benefiting the aged and disabled to the minimum allowed under federal law.

Dear readers, please forward this post to anyone who may want to share their story.