Community-minded car dealerships are best known for their support of Little League teams. Diaper banks are recognized for giving mothers in need the basic necessities.
Two such organizations in Baltimore, MileOne Autogroup and ShareBaby, have come together for an entirely new purpose.
MileOne Autogroup, a funder, and ShareBaby, a distributor with 70 partner agencies, are giving away hundreds of brand-new car seats through a new ShareBaby community program called “Safe and Secure.” They are also providing partner agencies with the training to instruct families on the proper use and installation of the seats.
“We are committed to supporting those in the communities that we serve at every stage of life,” stated Steven B. Fader, CEO of MileOne Autogroup, which owns the Heritage dealerships in Baltimore.
A member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Pikesville, he served as the 2018 campaign chair for The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.
“Our car-seat education and distribution program has made a direct impact for hundreds of parents and their families,” said Fader, whose family runs a charitable foundation that funds programs in the Jewish community. The MileOneCares corporate giving foundation was launched last March with a focus on transportation initiatives in disadvantaged communities.
“We look forward to seeing this car-seat program grow in years to come,” he said.
Amanda Kodeck, chief giving officer for MileOne Autogroup, said “we saw the urgent need to make car seats accessible in our community, and we are proud that we have impacted 700 families with the car seat program so far.
“By supporting ShareBaby’s new program, we not only ensure car seats get to the families who need them, but we also ensure through the training program that many others across Baltimore learn about the importance of child seat safety,” said Kodeck, who is Jewish.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 5,000 children are involved in car crashes in the United States each year, and that 42% of children killed are unrestrained.
“Car seats and education are a new and exciting venture for ShareBaby,” said executive director Amina Osman Weiskerger.
ShareBaby has given away 9 million baby items since its founding in 2014. From its 9,000-square foot warehouse, the organization is delivering more than 200,000 diapers and other essentials per month to thousands of Baltimore’s most vulnerable children.
‘All the essentials a baby needs to have the best start’
Kristin Finkelstein, 38, and Kate Mumaw, 41, both of Owings Mills, and Maya Adams founded ShareBaby. Finkelstein and Mumaw became friends and, over coffee, they talked about how there were mothers in the community who didn’t have what they had.
“My friends and I had just had our first kids, and we realized that we had way more stuff than we would really need for our babies,” said Finkelstein, who is a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville.
“How do we get the surplus of baby stuff that we have to them?” posed Mumaw. “And that’s how the concept of ShareBaby started.”
They considered dropping off items at homeless shelters and realized that shelters only had space to house people, said Mumaw. “That’s when my garage became our first warehouse.”
They began distributing a few hundred items each month through a network of friends and family. As their efforts grew, they established relationships with agencies that serve Baltimore’s poorest communities.
“We’d find out what their needs are and drop it off to them if they had a newborn coming in or a 5-year-old,” said Mumaw.
In Baltimore, ShareBaby became the only centralized agency of its kind. “We are Baltimore’s official diaper bank,” said Finkelstein.
“We move over 2 million items a year — everything from strollers to clothing to diapers — basically, all of the essentials that a baby would need to have the best start in life,” said Weiskerger.
‘An honor to be able to support these communities’
Of the car-seat distribution, Mumaw said, “I was super-excited because in the beginning, we weren’t able to distribute any sort of car seats because we couldn’t get insurance to cover it, especially used car seats. So when MileOne did the car-seat drive, there were brand-new car seats, and that takes the liability out of the equation.”
Kodeck of Owings Mills added that free car seats for families in need are a commitment to transportation safety.
“We hear that a lot of times families with newborns want to leave the hospital, and they don’t have a car seat. I know that hospitals will not allow you to leave without one,” she said.
Reasons for not having one at hand range from affordability to not knowing, or it being forgotten — an oversight.
To that end, MileOneCares is working with ShareBaby on filling the need that hospitals have for car seats for new parents, so they can leave the premises safely with their infant.
“It’s an honor to be able to support these communities on behalf of MileOneCares because we know we are making an impact where it’s really needed,” said Kodeck. “The funds that we give are helping these nonprofits grow as organizations and meet the needs of their constituents.”
To learn more, contact ShareBaby (sharebaby.org) and/or MileOneCares (mileonecares.com).
Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.