There are few times in life that are more transformative than after the birth of your first child. Jessica Seinfeld knows this all too well. When she and her husband, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, had their first baby, Sascha, the New York native found herself overwhelmed in many ways. “I was taken aback by how expensive it is to prepare your house and life for a newborn,” explains the longtime philanthropist. “I kept thinking about all the families near where we live that were struggling to afford the necessities.” Her first instinct was to pass along their own excess baby gear to others, but she couldn’t find a sufficient pipeline for tangible donations. “I kept looking for a place that picks up your excess baby gear and then makes sure that it gets to a family in need. It didn’t exist. So, I created it.”
Thus GOOD+ Foundation (formerly Baby Buggy) was formed. Now, 16 years later, GOOD+ has donated more than $35 million in essential children’s products through its partner network across the United States. The organization’s network reaches from coast to coast and has evolved to also offer support for low-income and at-risk families—from moms-to-be learning the basics of baby care to fathers discovering how to play a crucial role in their children’s lives.
Olivela spoke with Jessica about her work with GOOD+ and what keeps her fiercely committed to the organization she created:
GOOD+ has grown along with your own family. You now have three teenage kids. How has your organization influenced them?
The kids do volunteer, but honestly not as much as I wish they would. But they live with the GOOD+ model in their home and we talk about the families we serve every single day. In the life that we live in New York City, they are surrounded by kids who are growing up in a very different, more privileged way than Jerry and I did. GOOD+ is not only a necessity for families across this country, it’s a necessity for our family and keeping us as normal as possible.
Initially GOOD+, or Baby Buggy as it was called, was only about donated goods. But now you also raise funds to support transformational services. Can you explain that evolution?
We learned early on that to really help a baby you cannot just give things to the family. What you need to do is look at family poverty from 360 degrees. You have to understand what parents need to get themselves on track: Parents need a GED, they need vocational training, they need job training, and more. They also need to know how to communicate in a healthy relationship, whether it be with their partner, employer, or family members. For example, our Fatherhood program teaches fathers, who have most likely not had good role models themselves, how to be dads. We’re supporting mothers by teaching fathers.
How do you use tangible goods to motivate families to reach their goals?
We work with anti-poverty programs to incentivize our families to keep coming to classes. Let’s say, for example, that if you attend three education classes, then you’re eligible to get that stroller you really need. You can use that stroller to take your kids to daycare so you can go find a job.
Are the current budget talks in Washington, DC—which are proposing to cut a great deal of funding to family services—affecting your work?
Yes, just the idea of it sends such pain and stress through the community of people that we serve. We are already feeling that stress, so we have an idea of what we’re facing.
How can people who want to help get involved?
We have been fortunate: Our volunteer program is bustling. Our phone does not stop ringing, and we have groups in every single day in our LA and NY warehouses to sort and organize our donations. Families in NY and LA can also donate gently used items or organize drives. Also, we’ve set up an easy way for people who aren’t in NYC or LA to fundraise. They can create a campaign online by setting a goal and inviting friends to contribute, too. Instead of getting gifts your child might not need for his or her next birthday, you could raise money to help other families.
What does your partnership with Olivela mean to you?
I’ve always loved fashion and have often wondered why it’s not easy to make the world a better place through a love of fashion. Olivela makes good on a wonderful concept—that you could buy something that you love and that it’s going to give back. That designer handbag will not only be a pleasure to own, but it carries a story along with it. It carries the story of the family that you’re helping through GOOD+ as well.