Building well-being, one trip at time

What “things” can mean in our Baby Boutique

What do donations of clothing or other essentials mean to families we serve?

The short answer is that diapers, socks and strollers – even toothpaste and toothbrushes – help parents ensure the safety and healthy development of their children.

The long answer is a little more nuanced, but we think this quote helps capture it:

“The lovely little girl who chose the pink tricycle was riding it all around the toy room! A set of brothers were excited about that giant tube of cars, and took them home for the holidays. Sometimes you don't get to see that what you do matters, but it mattered to them.” 

– Sarah Kilpatrick, a Holiday Toy Room volunteer, to donors via our Facebook page  

In our world of community services, “things” can mean childhood joy, a sense of stability, or even empowerment. When coupled with a therapeutic approach, “things” help build well-being, so that families experiencing homelessness or other crises can reach their potential.



Every year, Wellspring’s nonprofit Community Services serves more than 4,000 individuals, many of them children. And typically, more than half benefit from our Baby Boutique, a specialty store for children’s essentials where parents can shop for free.

The holiday season is our busiest time, and just this past October through December, we helped 1,194 children. 

What makes the Baby Boutique unique? We don’t just hand out items. Parents are in charge.

Parents experiencing homelessness often can’t provide for even the most basic items, putting the health and safety of their babies and children at risk. So we gather essentials, but we leave the selection to parents. Who better understands their child’s needs?

During the holidays we make sure each family can give their children warm winter wear, and we set up a toy room where family members can select gifts for each other – or children can choose their own. At other times of the year we feature opportunities to secure bedding or school supplies.

Families working through crises need respectful and empowering experiences. Wellspring’s Baby Boutique helps our clients feel confident and secure, so they can focus on their children’s well-being.

Earlier this year, we surveyed our referral sources – the emergency shelter case managers, public health nurses and others who work with homeless families. They said their clients need more, so we increased the number of shopping trips from once every three months, to once every two. They also shared comments like these:

“Thank you for being there for the clients that I refer to you.”

“It is a great resource for families and the service is awesome.”

“All my clients have a great experience shopping at the Baby Boutique. You make them feel welcomes, and not stigmatized as homeless.”



In just the last four months, 517 families visited either the Baby Boutique or the Holiday Toy Room, and nearly 1200 children were given warm winter wear or gifts. Annually we serve more than twice those numbers.

All of the families served experienced homelessness; 98 percent were very low income.

Community donations provided the clothing, shoes, diapers, blankets, books, learning toys, games, car seats, strollers and other essentials. Volunteers provided most of the staffing and sorting.

Which meant that for every dollar spent, the Baby Boutique distributed close to $9 in goods.

At Wellspring, we focus on the therapeutic, offering clients counseling or referrals, whatever they need to work through trauma. But when you’re moving from a shelter into transitional housing, suddenly a crib can make all the difference. Young children, especially, need a warm and safe place to sleep to ensure healthy development. Families need soap and other personal care items. Students need school supplies. And when winter comes, kids need boots, coats, mittens, hats and gloves.

Our community – your support – ensures parents can provide.

So what do “things” mean? In the case of the Holiday Toy Room, pure joy. For families, the ability to take that next step and beyond.



Wellspring Family Services takes donations year round. We need:

  • Diapers (last year we handed out more than 50,000!)
  • Infant formula
  • Multicultural learning toys and books for children
  • Educational books for parents
  • New underwear and socks
  • New or gently used clothing (ages 0 to teen)
  • Gift cards or monetary donations, so we can purchase items as needed

We also run four annual donation drives. Individual drop offs are much appreciated, as are bulk donations from groups. Here’s our lineup:


January 18-March 31. Suggestions: New cribs and toddler beds, bedding, PJs, socks and underwear, and books for bedtime stories. Our goal: Help kids get a great night’s rest.


April 18-June 30. Suggestions: New personal care items, including shampoo and conditioner, soap, toothpaste and tooth brushes. Our goal: Help families stay healthy once they’ve moved into their new home.


July 18-October 31. Suggestions:  New backpacks, pencils, crayons, calculators and other school supplies. Our goal: Make sure children who’ve experienced homelessness start school with the supplies they need.


November 1-January 1. Suggestions: New coats, boots, mittens and scarves, plus books, toys and family games. Our goal: Spread joy, and celebrate the giving season together.



Wellspring Family Services includes two social enterprises: Counseling Services and our Employee Assistance Program. Proceeds from these programs help fund our Community Services, which include:

Our mission: Build emotionally healthy, self-sufficient families and a nonviolent community in which they can thrive.