Category Archives: Posted by Rachel F.

What Not to Donate

photo by tangobaby

photo by tangobaby *Note: bourbon is for scale purposes only.

We appreciate all of your donations, we really do, but while sorting supplies we found some things in our drop bins that are, shall we say, somewhat less than useful. Things like ancient, stained baby dolls and stuffed animals.

photo by tangobaby

photo by tangobaby

And matches. Medical supplies (e.g., syringes, gauze, suture scissors). Broken umbrellas. 3-D glasses. Aromatic candles. Random books. Backpacks containing the remains of someone’s lunch. Unwrapped toothbrushes. Soiled clothing. Unwashed clothing. Swim diapers. Decorative bowls. Half-filled Nalgene bottles and half-filled peri bottles. Old baby bottles made with BPA plastics. Open, leaking, and nearly empty bottles of shampoo, lotion, and conditioner.


Although I must admit, the surgical gloves came in handy when sorting through some of these items, so thanks for those.

By contrast, here are some things that would be great to drop off:

  • Diapers! Especially in larger sizes (3 and up), in open or sealed packages.
  • Pull-ups
  • Baby wipes
  • Tampons and pads
  • Costco-sized packs of toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Unopened, unleaky bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion — both travel and full size
  • Unopened baby care items (diaper cream, ointments, saline drops)
  • Unopened and unexpired infant formula
  • Brand-new socks and underwear for kids

A good rule of thumb for those who are considering donating items is to ask yourself, “Would I want to be given this?” If the answer is ewww, then please deposit the items in the trash instead. HAMO’s all-volunteer crew thanks you!


15,000 Diapers!

Diapers galore, by tangobaby.
I think it’s safe to say that our May Diaper Donation Drive was a smashing success: In one month, our supporters donated 15,000 diapers to families in need, plus thousands of travel-sized toiletries and baby wipes. For reference, the photo above shows about 1,500 diapers collected just from drop bins at Natural Resources and SadieDey’s Cafe. Ten times that number is a veritable mountain of diapers. Thanks to the ease of Amazon wishlists, generous folks from around the country were able to participate by simply pointing, clicking, and donating diapers directly to the agency of their choice. In San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, busy parents took time out of their days to drop off diapers and other supplies at collection bins that were frequently overflowing.
We at Help A Mother Out have been awed and overwhelmed by the response to what began as a modest Mother’s Day donation drive. When we first set up wishlists for a couple agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area, we had no idea that we would garner supporters statewide, let alone nationwide; we had no idea that we would tap into an inspiring, energizing network of folks across the state  and the country advocating on behalf of poor families; we had no idea we would recruit allies and volunteers from around the world to help us help some mothers out.
Sorting supplies in San Francisco, originally uploaded by tangobaby.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who donated and spread the word, and especially to the following cheerleaders, collaborators, and co-conspirators:

Craig is totally checking us out

As longtime users and fans of Craigslist, we’re honored and thrilled by this shout-out on Craig Newmark’s blog. Over the past 15 years, Craigslist has touched practically every aspect of my life: I’ve gotten awesome freelance gigs, rented swell apartments, purchased and sold a car, found the world’s best babysitter… I, like many of my peers, can’t imagine modern life without it.

We all know about the multitude of classified ads on Craigslist, but not as many people know about the cool civic-engagement work being undertaken by the Craigslist Foundation, or about Craig’s own advocacy on behalf of a number of progressive causes. They’re doing cool stuff, and we’re pretty darn proud that they think we’re doing cool stuff too.

CalWORKS Spared — For Now

Yesterday, guest poster Angie generously shared her personal experience as a CalWORKS recipient, and her well-founded fears that the program would fall victim to the California budget crisis. We were all set to post a blog entry with links to letter-writing campaigns urging the state legislature not to cut CalWORKS — but before we could hit “post,” we got news that the budget committee voted 6 to 1 to save the program!

This is of course wonderful news, but it’s tempered by the fact that many other crucial and extremely worthwhile programs are on the chopping block.

To stay updated on the budget situation (legislators are meeting right now to figure out what to cut and what to save), check out the Western Center on Law & Poverty’s frequently updated legislative blog. And, of course, keeping checking back here or follow our Twitter stream for action updates.

Katie Couric’s Spotlight on the Kids


For once, some good news—or at least, some good work by the news media. Spearheaded by Katie Couric, CBS is running a weeklong series devoted to Children of the Recession. Bookended by reports on the Early Show and the Evening News, the series is featuring original reporting from multiple vantage points. Thus far, segments have covered foster care, the psychological impact on children of the recession, rising rates of child abuse and neglect, and how to talk to  kids about the economy. Tonight’s report will be on homeless children.

In an interesting strategic twist, Katie Couric has been reaching out to blogging mothers to seek input on angles to cover, personal anecdotes, and programs that are making a difference. It’s a remarkable effort to get the word out, but also to seek on-the-ground stories and, with any luck, draw attention to the many people and organizations who are trying to mitigate the damages. (Pssst, Katie—we’re available for interviews any time…)

Have you seen any of the segments? What did you think? And what else do you think CBS should cover in the series?

Connecting the Dots

Photo by Tangobaby

Photo by Tangobaby

A few months ago, when Lisa and I were brainstorming about a diapers-and-wipes donation drive, we had no clue where this was all going—no thought of ending up on the radio, or inspiring other diaper drives in other cities, or stumbling into a thriving, dynamic network of people trying to make a real difference with seemingly small acts. We have met some incredible folks along the way who’ve kept challenging and encouraging us to see the connections between the personal and the political, the economic and the social.

Last Friday we had the honor of meeting in person one of our newly minted Internet superheroes, Julie of TangoBaby. We all met up at San Francisco City Hall to lend our support to a coalition of homeless families and their advocates who were holding a press conference. It was great to see up-close and off-line some of the peeps we’ve been Tweeting and emailing with; say what you will about the ease of online communication, it really can’t compare to talking face to face. We got the bonus of talking to some reporters about our diaper drive as we waited for things to get rolling—a number of them thought that we, with Lisa’s kids in tow, were part of the press conference, so we took the opportunity to explain that we were allies. (Lisa and kids did end up on TV, but only as background images.)

But for me, the real highlight of the day was getting to meet Mama K and her family—the folks who jump-started Julie’s quest, and who provided a huge inspiraton for me and Lisa too. I’m sure K doesn’t want to be the poster child for anyone’s movement; she’s just trying to live her life and secure the best possible future for her kids and herself. And it’s a big cliché to talk about how humbling it is to meet someone who is so gracious under enormous stress, and yet it’s undeniable that putting a face on a story—whether it’s of homelessness or illness or foreclosure—helps people to connect even more strongly. To see that it isn’t all text and tweets and html: It’s real life.

Calling All San Francisco Mothers: Start Celebrating Mother’s Day Early

We’ll be getting a jump-start on our Mother’s Day celebrations this Friday at San Francisco City Hall. We’re not affiliated with these folks, but we’ll be there to lend our support. Please join us to show some solidarity and send Mayor Newsom the message that his lack of response to the homeless crisis is not okay.



Where: Steps of City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton Goodlett Place, San Francisco

When: Friday, May 8, 2009, 11:00

What: Homeless mothers are holding a press conference to decry the lack of response from the Mayor’s office on the doubling of homeless families in San Francisco ince the recession.

San Francisco—San Francisco, like cities across the nation, is seeing a dramatic spike in the number of families requesting emergency shelter. The city of San Francisco has enough homeless families to fill a small, rapidly growing town. Yet, this issue has received very loud silence coming out of the Mayor’s office.

According to Connecting Point, in the summer of 2007, the average number of homeless families waiting to be placed into shelters was 75. In the summer of 2008, that average doubled to 150 families. Since then, there have been anywhere from 150 to 190 families waiting to be placed into shelters. The recession has taken a tremendous toll on our low-income families, and homeless families are calling on the Mayor’s office to respond.

Studies have show that homelessness has negative impacts on our youth’s health, development and education. Mother’s are becoming more and more concerned for their children’s well being.. They are in awe at the fact that the city has not responded to the tragic outcome of our recession. Homeless parents will be presenting their solutions and will be asking for a meeting with the Mayor. Homeless parents active with the Coalition on Homelessness have been calling for a meeting with the Mayor for the past two years, and have not been granted one.

For Mother’s Day, the mothers of the homeless community would like to spend their day securing their children’s future. Homeless parents will be calling for additional affordable housing units, a lifting of the time limit on a locally funded housing subsidy, and increased homeless prevention funding. San Francisco has adopted the “Housing First” policy which was created to swiftly house homeless single adults. The mother’s are fed up with the lack of action from City Hall, and are demanding that the “Housing First” policy that was adopted by San Francisco be implemented for families in their time of need.

According to Jenise Standfield of SRO Families United, “Our families need real “rapid housing” not “rapid homelessness”!