Little Hands Virginia

Taylor Keeney held her daughter, Frances, during a September diaper drive at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond. The event was organized by Little Hands Virginia, Keeney’s new initiative to provide essentials for babies and mothers in need of help in the area.

By Taylor Keeney

As the holidays arrive, family is top of mind in my house. Our son is 2, and trying to figure out what Christmas means. Currently he thinks Santa’s name is Christmas, and every deer in our front yard is a reindeer.

Our daughter is 6 months old and we are relishing in our last “Baby’s First Christmas” and the magic that brings.

We’re hosting family at our house for Turkey Day and then will head to my brother’s house in Virginia Beach for a second Thanksgiving meal.

Three weeks later we will pack up everyone — and every gift — for Santa to visit us at my parents’ house in California.

I share all of this not because I think you are very curious about my plans, but rather because the holidays have a very different meaning for me this year.

My family always has been fortunate that we can gather together, enjoy a delicious meal (or two), go all out and reminisce about the year we are about to say goodbye to.

Many families in the Richmond community are not this fortunate.

During the holidays, they will not be able to spoil their children. And, more importantly, they’ll struggle to afford even basics like diapers.

One in three children in the greater Richmond region is economically disadvantaged, according to Voices for Virginia’s Children. And, almost 40% of children in the city of Richmond live below poverty thresholds based on figures from the United Way.

In August, I launched Little Hands Virginia to help provide essentials and a little extra love to families and babies in need in the greater Richmond area. Through our network of partners — local departments of social services and other agencies; homeless shelters, including the YWCA and Housing Families First; and nonprofits such as Family Lifeline, Partnership for Families, Fostering Acadia, REAL LIFE and more — we are working to address the basic needs of children up to 3 years old, year-round.

In just three months, this start-up nonprofit has helped more than 75 children in the region.

So often, it is items that I, as a mom, have taken for granted. I have never had to worry about how I will afford the next pack of diapers. I was fortunate to bring my children home from the hospital to a fully stocked nursery with more gear than a little 6-pound baby could ever need.

Many of the families we are helping are leaving the hospital with almost nothing. We provided a mom who lost everything in a fire with a portable play yard, clothes, diapers and other gear for her preemie.

We’ve provided moms in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield with one-month supplies of diapers when they were down to their last few. We helped a dad who just got custody of his son get a car seat and stroller.

Children are expensive. At a more basic level, diapers are expensive. When a family can’t afford diapers, they stretch what they have, which can lead to health risks and possible abuse. When a family doesn’t have a day’s worth of diapers for day care, a parent might have to stay home, leading to lost wages. Diaper need is a real issue and it can further the cycle of poverty in our community.

We’re helping to meet that need — and more.

As I build out our list of Christmas gifts left to buy and strategize when I’m going to go to the grocery store for not one but two Thanksgiving dinners, a huge weight remains in the back of my mind.

Not only are there children that won’t experience the same holiday magic that my children will this year, but there also are babies who will go to sleep without a bed, without the right size clothes and potentially without a clean diaper.

This holiday season, our community will rally together through Angel Trees, the Christmas Mother program, donation drives and so many other wonderful community programs to make the holidays better for families in need in the greater Richmond region.

The need is year-round. So this holiday season, give a little, give a lot, give what you can. And heading into 2020, remember that the need in our community continues. Little Hands is helping to meet that need.

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Taylor Keeney is the director of strategic communications and advocacy for Hunton Andrews Kurth’s global economic development, commerce and government relations group and the founder of Little Hands Virginia. Contact her at: tkeeney@huntonak.com

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