Jessica Seinfeld opens up about her charity, Baby Buggy, and raising her kids to be empathetic and grounded
Growing up the daughter of a social worker, giving back was an integral part of Jessica Seinfeld’s life. Now she emulates that parenting style with her own three children. In 2001, Jessica started Baby Buggy, a charity that has donated over 5 million items to families in need. She lives in New York with her husband, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and their children.
What moved you to found Baby Buggy?
After having my first child, I quickly became aware of the unfairness of the baby gear cycle—some families have more than they need, while others don't have what's required to keep a baby healthy and happy. What was missing was an organization that could open the gate between the two and ease the burden for struggling mothers by re-distributing basic necessities. We started small—a weekend-long drive among my friends to collect the gently used baby gear we no longer needed. Today, our organization has donated more than 5 million items to families in need.
Were you involved in philanthropy before founding Baby Buggy?
My mom was a social worker who had my sisters and me volunteering from as early as I can remember. We never looked at it as philanthropy—we didn't even know what that word meant. Simply put, helping others in the community has always been a part of my life, and was never a choice we were given. We just did it, and I am a better person for it.
Have you involved your children in any of your philanthropic efforts? How?
Yes, absolutely. My children often donate their outgrown clothing, books, and supplies to Baby Buggy. They also go to Baby Buggy's warehouse to clean and organize donations. We want our children to feel like they are an integral part of the organization, without being too pushy and annoying about it. I always think it's best to set an example by doing, rather than saying.
You obviously set a great example for your children when it comes to caring about people in need. How important is it to you that they be aware of the hardships other people face?
Thank you for your kind words. The same way that my parents made it a part of my life, my husband and I are passionate about raising kids who grow up in the habit of giving back. We live in a city of great means, but also of great need. And in New York, that need exists in every part of the city. My kids are obviously very fortunate, but it's extremely important to Jerry and me that they are empathetic, fair, grounded, and informed. We spend a lot of time and energy making sure they live a very normal existence. This is easy for us because Jerry and I both grew up in middle class homes, where anything extra was a true privilege.
Time and busy lives are often the excuse for not getting involved. How can people who feel they have their hands too full with work and family get involved with Baby Buggy and make even a small difference?
One of the great things about Baby Buggy is that most people find they can accomplish two things at once by helping out. So, not only are you donating outgrown or superfluous items to Baby Buggy and helping families in need, you're also organizing your closet and making life simpler and cleaner. If you live in New York City, Baby Buggy will even pick up donations directly from your home to make the process as easy as possible. With a few clicks, you can make a financial contribution online at www.babybuggy.org. If you are unable to give personally, you could also encourage your company to donate excess inventory to our warehouse. Even the smallest action can make a world of difference, and we greatly appreciate your support.
What do you consider Baby Buggy's greatest success?
I am so proud that this simple idea—putting well-loved items into the hands of others who need them most—has become such an integral part of New York City and is spreading nationwide. In our 11th year, Baby Buggy now distributes an average of 40,500 new and gently used essentials each month to families in six cities across the U.S.—New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Dallas. My hope is that we will continue to grow and rally more communities around our motto of "Love. Recycled." —Cat Buckley