Helping Hand Me Downs enhances the quality of life for children and families in the St. Louis area by meeting their immediate needs, then connecting them with life-changing resources that foster independence.
Helping Hand Me Downs (HHMD) was founded in August of 2011 and received 501c3 status on October 14, 2011. Since then HHMD has served over 25,000 children and families. Referrals come from nurses, social workers and counselors from over 100 local agencies. The largest referral sources are Crisis Nursery, school districts, Nurses for Newborns, Beyond Housing/Normandy, and Parents as Teachers National. All families served live in the St. Louis metro area and have been deemed “in need” by the agency serving them.
The families referred to HHMD receive clothing, a seasonal coat or jacket, socks, shoes, toys and books. The families are encouraged to return the items when the children have outgrown them. Families in need feel empowered by helping other families and it allows HHMD to remain in contact with them and spot additional areas where support may be needed
The original service offering was formed to meet a need that was expressed by more than 40 industry experts currently serving families in need. Hospital social workers indicated that infants were routinely being released from the hospital and going home with no clothing and nowhere to sleep. The social workers resorted to teaching the moms to safely use a box or drawer instead of a crib. After a few months HHMD modified the service model and started serving children of all ages instead of just babies; it didn’t take long to figure out that the babies going home had older siblings that were in need as well.
Once the urgent needs have been met, HHMD will focus on longer term goals to help the family gain stability or enhance their quality of life. HHMD works with families and connects them with services that will help them live more independently. One of the most successful offerings is the coaching program that helps families prioritize their needs and empowers them to make decisions proactively. Through coaching, moms have found the courage to leave abusive relationships and enroll in programs that support a successful path to independence.
When families enroll in the program they are asked about their housing situation and job status. Well over half of the moms indicate that they are living in a temporary situation (couch hopping) and need help finding long term housing and/or a stable job. To address the lack of safe housing for the families HHMD implemented a housing program for families in transition. After the family completes a budget with a financial advisor and meets various other requirements, they are eligible to receive down payment assistance.
HHMD also partners with local companies as well as Mission STL for employment opportunities to enroll moms in classes that will ultimately result in stable employment. Once mom has a job, the last few hurdles seem to be childcare and transportation. Helping Hand Me Downs can assist with both on various levels.
By providing a one-stop shop for the social workers, nurses, and moms, HHMD helps streamline the resources and the overall experience for the families. Instead of making 4 or 5 stops for beds, clothing, shoes, housing, etc., HHMD conducts a thorough intake interview to uncover the root of the instability or crisis that brought them in initially. Moms typically come in with the idea of receiving a few outfits and diapers for their children and leave with job leads, housing options, clothing and coats for all of their children, a car seat, and or some other necessary baby gear. The goal is to exceed their expectations, build trust and maintain a long term relationship that allows them to migrate from recipient to donor/volunteer.