by Todd Cohen
photographs by Nick Pironio
Christina Kodesh understands that babies “never choose the time or situation to be born into.” So she has made it her mission to collect donated baby clothes and give them to hospitals for newborns who need them.
Volunteering as Raleigh-Durham coordinator for Loved Twice, a California-based charity, Kodesh has single-handedly delivered over 450 boxes of clothes weighing more than 5,000 pounds to babies in need at local hospitals since she launched the local chapter in September 2011.
The undertaking, which initially took over her garage, dining room, and guest room, and now occupies the attic in her home, has become part of her daily life, and given her an opportunity to pass on to her own children the legacy of giving back that she received from her parents. While at times it has seemed to swamp her, she says, the work always has inspired her.
“At some points, I’ve been overwhelmed by it,” says Kodesh, 38. “Then I stop and pack a box, and the minute I pack a box, I know why I’m doing it. It’s for the babies.”
A native of Venezuela who was raised in Spain and the U.S. by her Spanish mother and American father, Kodesh earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the U.S. She has worked at jobs as varied as helping student-run organizations perform community service and as an admissions counselor at N.C. State. This spring, she stepped down as bilingual college liaison at Durham Technical Community College so she could spend more time with her kids and on her charity work. And if she can secure the funding it would require, she would like to make a career of working for Loved Twice.
Kodesh and her husband, Dan Kodesh, a computer programmer, live in Cary with their eight-year-old son, Zachary, and their five-year-old daughter, Elisenda.
How did you get involved with Loved Twice?
In the summer of 2011, we had been here about a year. I was reading a parenting magazine. It had an article about Loved Twice. Something touched my heart. I contacted Lisa Klein, the founder, by email. I was looking for a way to get involved in the community. She wrote back and said it was perfect timing. She was just getting ready to do national outreach. The only thing she asked that I not do was take financial donations.
What is your role?
We’re a chapter. I work as a volunteer. We have no budget. For the most part, it’s just me. I do it out of my home.
How does Loved Twice work?
I get donations of clothing. I either pick up clothes, or meet somewhere, or have people drop them off. I ask that they be clean prior to being donated. I inspect every item to make sure it’s clean. If it has a stain on it, it doesn’t get donated. Once I get the items, I sort the clothing based on the season the baby is born. I use copy-paper boxes that are donated. In each box, I put clothing for babies from birth to 12 months old, anywhere from 75 to 80 items. Every box has 10 onesies, sleepers, pants, shirts, sometimes jackets, hats, bibs, socks, and a blanket. Each box weighs 10 to 12 pounds.
How do you connect with donors and recipients?
When I started in 2011, I put my name out through WRAL online’s Go Ask Mom column and the local Cary paper. I have a Facebook page. I have set up a network of social workers. They let me know when they need boxes and I deliver them to the hospital. I have donated to Duke Medical Center, UNC Women’s Hospital, Rex, and other contacts throughout Wake County, such as high school students. Social workers determine who gets the box. I never meet the recipient.
What have you learned?
It does not require a lot of money or even time to give back. Every weekend I spend several hours up in the baby room, as we call it. It used to be my children’s playroom, in a third-floor attic that’s finished. I’ll never meet the babies. But if I can keep them warm for a day, then I’ve done what I can to help. My family has always been supportive. I try to get my kids involved in helping to pack the boxes. And I have taken them to the hospitals when I’m delivering boxes. They need to learn that it’s easy to give back.
What are your plans for Loved Twice?
I can’t turn this into something without some financial support. I’m trying to figure out how to make this my career, because it’s my passion.
What does philanthropy mean to you?
Taking what you know and applying it to your daily life to make a change. Sometimes that change is within you, and that pours out onto others. And sometimes it’s change for someone else.
Who are your heroes?
My parents. I have watched them go through struggles and be successful with their heads up high and a smile on their face. My father was in an accident when he was a chemical engineer at a factory. There was an explosion. He had broken ribs, a collapsed lung, some hearing loss. That accident closed down that part of the company, so he lost his job. Mom has a sister fighting with addiction.
What motivates you each day to do something to give back?
My children. Wanting to teach them that no matter what, start your day with a smile on your face and things will get better.
What do you like about Raleigh?
It’s a growing city. Even in the four years we’ve been here, this whole area is becoming more of a foodie town. We moved from D.C. and part of what we missed was the restaurants. It’s fun to see the cultural growth in the area.
If you could fix a social problem, what would it be?
The public school system, the struggles they’re having with growth. We need to pay our teachers better.
What inspires you?
Knowing that a simple action can make a world of difference.