Loved Twice helps Bay Area families in need clothe their newborns

Nyla Dowden sits with her fussing newborn, Casilda, cradled against her shoulder.

Casilda’s unexpected arrival a full five weeks before her due date left Dowden with little time to prepare. And there’s no shortage of needs when it comes to newborns. They need onesies, diapers, cribs and more.

Thankfully, Loved Twice, a charity that repurposes baby clothes to give families in need, stepped in and gave Dowden’s family more than 30 items for tiny Casilda.

“There was a lot of small clothing, I just couldn’t have prepared for, since she was so early,” says Dowden, 41, pausing to answer in between Casilda’s soft cries. “It was all very much needed.”

Dowden and Casilda aren’t the only ones who’ve benefited from the work being done at Loved Twice. To date, the Oakland-based nonprofit has provided 32,575 newborns with a full year’s worth of baby clothes, worth more than $8.5 million.

Wish Book donations would allow Loved Twice to put together 400 boxes of baby clothes for 500 newborns in need in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, providing 30,000 essential garments to undeserved communities. Funds also will be used for a Silicon Valley program coordinator to manage volunteers and deliveries.

The idea was born in 2005, as founder Lisa Klein watched news coverage of Hurricane Katrina as it hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

“I was watching it on CNN,” she says. “There were all these displaced families at the Superdome, and they had absolutely nothing.”

Klein emailed her new moms group and asked the 15 or so new mothers to drop off any old baby clothes they had.

“I told them, I’m collecting clothes, and I went to bed,” she says. “The next day, there’s 100 pounds of clothes on my porch, which is a lot of clothes, if you think about how little a onesie is.”

Klein sorted all the items, packed them up and shipped off the first of Loved Twice’s many boxes of clothes for bundles of joy. While the first batch went to Katrina victims, Klein wanted to continue the effort, and so she dropped off another batch at Oakland’s Highland Hospital.

A miraculous snowball effect began from there. Word traveled among local hospitals and social workers, who soon began reaching out with requests for clothing. It didn’t take long for Klein to need help with the operation, and it soon boomed into the broad nonprofit that it is today, supporting disadvantaged babies while reusing thousands of onesies, swaddling blankets and babywear that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Loved Twice collects these precious, gently used garments from their donation sites and with the help of volunteers, sorts and neatly packages them into “wardrobes in a box.” These wardrobes are then distributed to mothers and families through social workers in hospitals, shelters and clinics.

While volunteers still collect clothes on their porches, sorting and packing them right on the spot, Loved Twice also hosts regular sorting parties. They are often held at corporate locations, allowing volunteers to help sort and pack clothes while on their lunch break, a small sacrifice to make a huge difference.

That difference goes beyond the practicality of newborn clothing. The gift offers emotional security, warmth and reassurance that resources are available.

“It was truly a relief,” says Dowden, “It just brought peace of mind.”

Some families are so overwhelmed and grateful for the wardrobes that they return the clothes once their babies outgrow them, sharing the gifts of Loved Twice among each other like a sisterhood of the traveling onesie.

“I wish I could put like a GPS on some of these onesies, just to see how many times they’re reused in the community,” says Klein, “It’s just the most amazing thing.”

Originating from a natural disaster, Loved Twice now continues its fight amid a global pandemic. With the economic consequences of COVID-19 facing low-income families, the demand for clothing and newborn essentials has only risen, and there’s been a big uptick in social workers needing baby clothes at local hospitals, shelters and safe homes.

Fortunately, with thousands of people bored at home and cleaning out their closets, there was also an uptick in donations, as well as volunteers looking for a way to spend their newfound free time. In fact, Loved Twice actually thrived during the shutdown. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t still need your help.