In 2007, both attorneys at a downtown Denver law firm, Jayme and I left the corporate world and began the career of a lifetime: motherhood. It was a time for big change, not only for us, but for our country and the world. Soon after growing our families, economic growth tanked. Big banks failed and markets crashed. Good, hard-working people were losing their jobs, and unemployment skyrocketed. Stable families suddenly found themselves unstable, becoming bankrupt and even homeless. It was a volatile time as we all can remember. Yet, as challenging as it was becoming single income families with new babies, we both realized how incredibly fortunate we were. We could still buy diapers for our babies and food for our families. We were still able to pay our mortgages and buy safe car seats and strollers. We began to worry about other new moms and babies, just like us, but with zero income in their family. How could they afford a crib? If their house was in foreclosure, how could they afford a safe car seat? With a hungry family to feed, how would they make the impossible choice between spending their last $20 on food or diapers? A funny thing happens when you become a mom… suddenly, you’re not just a mom to your own child, you are a mother to all children. After a bit of research on local poverty statistics and the needs of stricken Denver families, we knew we could do something to help that was both impactful and sustainable.
To get some seed money, we sold Jayme’s futon on Craig’s List and used that $100 to build a website and purchase business cards. We pitched our idea to a nonprofit incubator and they brought us under their umbrella, allowing us to open our doors and focus on our mission. Things moved fast and furious from there. We reached out to our personal neighborhoods asking for gently used baby gear and attended hundreds of yard sales to build up inventory. We created gear drives at locals schools and companies, and soon, each of our basements was brimming with baby gear, even overflowing into our garages. We then set up partnerships with other local nonprofits, who desperately needed our gear, and began filling orders to provide for them.
Wow. We were shocked at how quickly WeeCycle took off. While our babies napped, we filled orders, planned fundraisers and forged relationships with an ever-growing network of community partners. The need in our community was staggering, but the people we met and the stories they told kept us motivated:
… A young single mother trying to finish community college, and the baby swing that calmed her daughter so she could study… The refugee family whose limited beds were already filled with older children, the crib that kept their new baby safe… A grandfather able to transport his grandson safely with a car seat after being awarded custody of him as a result of his mother’s mental illness . . .
It wasn’t long before we realized that we weren’t just helping families in need, we were connecting people. Building community. We heard over and over again from gear donors how thrilled they were knowing their donations went directly into the hands of other families in need. People would drive miles out of their way to donate gently used baby gear, often attaching loving notes describing how to use a particular piece of equipment. They weren’t just donating baby gear, they were giving love, grateful to know that another child and family would be helped because of one extra step in their day. We are all mothers to all children.
So here we are. Our babies aren’t babies any more, but our mission hasn’t changed. We have connected with thousands of families through dozens of partner agencies over the course of 8 amazing years. Our little “nonprofit that could” has grown into a catalyst for community change and human empowerment. Our collected gear not only provides ease and safety for babies and families, it provides hope for the future and cross-cultural support that brings us ALL closer together. It takes a village to raise a family. WeeCycle IS that village for so many families in our community. Come join us!
Sunny Heydorn and Jayme Ritchie