Baby clothing nonprofit grows into new office in Shops at Stratford Hills

Little Hands moved into a space in the Shops at Stratford Hills in April. The growing nonprofit collects and distributes donated baby clothing and items. (Jack Jacobs photo)

A nonprofit that collects and distributes donated baby clothing and gear is growing about as fast as its clients.

Little Hands opened a new office at 7101-L Forest Hill Ave. in the Shops at Stratford Hills in early April. The nonprofit collects donated new and like-new clothing, diapers, soap and other items for children up to 3 years old and then distributes the donations to children referred by its partner network.

“We provide essentials to young children in need in the greater Richmond area,” founder and executive director Taylor Keeney said. “That (age range) is in particular a time when kids are growing and constantly needing new clothing and gear.”

Little Hands launched out of Keeney’s garage in 2019, and by the fall of that year moved into a classroom at Second Baptist Church in Henrico. After heightened demand spurred by the pandemic, the nonprofit relocated again.

Little Hands creates bundles of supplies for its clients, and 90 percent of its donations are delivered to families or another agency by the nonprofit’s 60 active volunteers.

The average bundle consists of a week’s worth of clothing, a month’s worth of diapers, soap and towels. Little Hands provided supply bundles to more than 600 children in 2020, and expects to supply more than 800 children this year.

Increased demand due to the pandemic prompted Keeney to hire a part-time employee to help handle the workload. Pre-pandemic, the nonprofit provided bundles for about 25 children a month. It’s now up to more than 80 children a month.

The nonprofit’s network of 50 local organizations, which range from school districts to hospitals, local social services departments to homeless shelters, refer families to Little Hands.

Little Hands moved into a 2,000-square-foot space at the Stratford Hills shopping center, which is anchored by a Publix and Target.

Keeney said the space has a few perks that help the operation along. It’s centrally located for volunteers to make supply runs, and it’s easy for volunteers to get to the shopping center. It also allowed for room for a pickup service.

“The location is perfect because we do a lot of work in Chesterfield in addition to being in the city. It’s also easy to get out to Goochland and Petersburg from where we are,” Keeney said.

Being so close to Target and Publix, Keeney is betting that proximity to the stores serves as a further incentive for people looking to get rid of unwanted baby stuff.

The new space has a laundry room used to clean clothing donations.

During the pandemic, Little Hands launched a program in which volunteers picked up clothing donations, washed them at their homes and returned them.

The concept was hatched as a way to allow people to volunteer while staying spread out during the pandemic.

Keeney said that program will probably stick around.

“We’ll probably keep it because it’s so popular and it cuts down on the number of laundry loads we have to do,” she said.

Keeney said about $2,000 was invested into the space. Contributions from other groups, like the free conversion of a restroom into the laundry room by Harris Heating and Plumbing Co. and free painting and shelf-building by the Rotary Club of West Richmond helped keep costs down.

Keeney, who works full-time as director of strategic communications and advocacy for law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, founded the nonprofit during maternity leave after the birth of her youngest child Frances. She had a hard time finding a place to donate her unwanted baby items, which inspired her to launch Little Hands.

Looking forward, Keeney wants to expand Little Hands’ services into the Tri-Cities area and is exploring the introduction of nursing classes and car-seat installation clinics.

In addition to Little Hands, other new arrivals are in store for the Shops at Stratford Hills. Harper Associates, which owns the shopping center, has plans to expand it with 36 townhomes and a Chipotle-anchored retail building. A Five Guys Burgers and Fries also recently moved in after taking a former Starbucks space.

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