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Good+ in action: bringing joy and smiles to families at its 2019 Bash in Central Park, New York

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#VBGIVESBACK

The Men & Women of Good+Foundation

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We're in our third month of our #VBGIVESBACK partnership with Good+ and, so far, we've been able to raise enough money to provide 50,000 diapers, 5,000 pouches of baby food, 1,000 cleaning supplies, 100 cribs and emergency grants to help 200 struggling families with rent, utility bills, groceries, and prescriptions during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Even more impressive? The fact that these donations were hitting their destinations—and helping those truly in need—at a time when the majority of the U.S. was powering down due to the pandemic. That's all thanks to the Herculean efforts of the team at Good+. Here, a look at the heroes making things happen behind the scenes.

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Rick Justiniano | National Director of Operations & Corporate Donations

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What brought you to Good+?
I came to Good+ 10 years ago because I wanted to help families. I grew up in Washington Heights, the northernmost part of Manhattan. My parents came here from Puerto Rico in the 1960s. My dad worked hard for our family, but making ends meet was always a struggle. I watched him, always responsible, always putting my brother, sister and me first. My mom was a school teacher at PS 173 and she brought home stories about kids living in really rough situations. Giving back was always part of what we did. As a family, we volunteered at the soup kitchen during the holidays and we held food drives. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be part of a solution that made life better for people.

Lord of the Loft, a.k.a. Rick Justiniano, hard at work

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“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be part of a solution that made life better for people.”

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Could you share some of the work you've done?
I am the Director of National Operations and Corporate Donations. In my role, I talk to companies that want to donate essential children’s products and manage all logistics of incoming and outgoing product donations to multiple warehouses in New York and Los Angeles. I oversee receiving, processing and inventorying for every single diaper and stroller that is donated to Good+. I am thrilled when I see overflowing bins of goods headed out of our freight elevators in New York knowing they are on their way to a family in need.
I work out of our New York warehouse and have a knack for knowing where every box and pallet of children’s goods are at any given time. Laurel Parker West, our VP of National Programs and Operations, gave me the nickname “Lord of the Loft,” and some of my NY colleagues got me a desk plaque as a birthday present one year—I must admit that the nickname definitely fits!
My job is to make sure that we get donations of critically needed diapers, baby food and cleaning supplies into the hands of families as quickly as possible. So far, since the COVID crisis began, we've donated out over $1.8M worth of goods, and that is with the majority of our staff working from home. I love being part of a team that can adapt and respond to whatever crisis comes our way to help vulnerable families.

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What's your single most memorable moment with the organization?
During Hurricane Sandy in New York City, our normal distribution systems were no longer viable, so we couldn’t get donations to partners that were in dire need. The Good+ team rented a U-Haul, loaded it, and drove to the Rockaways, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods and where a number of our early education program partners operated. I felt a ton of pride as we loaded up the truck, doing whatever it took to help families through a disaster. Just like we’re doing during this crisis, we knew exactly how to help. We were able to lean on the incredibly strong relationships that we’d built on the ground and we were prepared to spring into action.

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Michelle Kogan | LA Program Coordinator

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What first brought you to work with Good+?
I have been with Good+ for a little over a year as our LA Program Coordinator. The fatherhood engagement initiative was very appealing to me, as I had not seen many organizations spotlight this as their focus. I grew up in a single-parent household and saw firsthand how difficult it could be and how poverty and single parenthood are so interlinked.

What do you love about what you do?
I love that we are not just giving goods to families in need, but are also doing groundbreaking work within the space of policy and child welfare. The work we do at Good+ is about more than just providing a safe sleeping space for an infant; it is also about making sure that the entire family is able to overcome obstacles and barriers and eventually gain financial stability.
While our day-to-day focus is getting goods to our partner organizations who are engaging in vital work in health and social services, we are also actively working with our partners to be inclusive of fathers and male caregivers. In the same way that society sees "mother" as synonymous with "family," we feel "father" is also an essential piece of the family structure, not an optional piece.

Michelle Kogan on duty in Los Angeles

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“I love that we are not just giving goods to families in need, but are also doing groundbreaking work within the space of policy and child welfare.”

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Could you share some of the work you've done?
As the LA Program Coordinator, I work closely with our grantee partners to respond to monthly requests for goods, collect program data and information, and maintain internal systems of inventory management. I also evaluate prospective grantee partners to determine eligibility and assess current grantees to confirm they are meeting the requirements of our grant agreements. We conduct site visits to better understand the services provided by grantee partners and to assess how our donated goods can make the biggest possible impact. Finally, I support our volunteer program by identifying great projects for volunteer activities based on real-time program needs.

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What's your single most memorable moment with the organization?
During my first couple of weeks, I facilitated a donation of some infant gear to a nurse working with Nurse-Family Partnership. The donation included things like a playpen and a double stroller. The nurse got so excited as we packed the items into her vehicle. She told me, "This is for my client who has been trapped in a violent relationship. She was finally able to escape domestic violence. She has four children, all under five years of age. This donation will make it possible for her to live without her abuser."

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Mairin O’Connor | Program Manager

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What brought you to Good+?
I was drawn to Good+Foundation because of the opportunity to work on a small team of passionate and smart individuals at an organization where the mission is universal but also very targeted and unique. Because we are a small but mighty team, in my three years at Good+, I've had the opportunity to learn a lot from my coworkers and wear many different hats.

What do you love about what you do?
I love showing up to work every day knowing that the work we do is having a tangible impact on equity issues in my community. The cost of raising a happy, healthy, safe baby and child is high and continuous. Being able to play a role in helping alleviate some of the financial stress for low-income parents and caregivers who want the very best for their children and are working to give them the very best start in life is so concrete and impactful. We have an incredible network of high-impact, anti-poverty programs—we are so humbled to be able to support their work and play a role in bringing resources to underserved communities.

Graduation Day for the CUNY Fatherhood Academy

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“Participating in graduation celebrations... really helps to remind me why it is so important that we keep fighting for a more equitable society.”

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Could you share some of the work you've done?
I previously worked in education, so my transition to working at Good+ allowed me to apply a lot of the skills I learned in the classroom to an environment with more room for innovation in my daily work. I manage our volunteer program, which in a typical year logs over 10,000 hours of service from individuals helping to support our mission and move product donations quickly out of the warehouse and into the community. I also work closely with our partners to best understand their families' needs and how we can bolster their mission, particularly with product donations. I'm able to take data and case stories back to our network and advocate for in-kind donations from our incredible corporate donors to meet the real-time needs of our program families. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have pivoted to a crisis-response model, which means our volunteer program and distribution procedures look different. And we've been able to leverage our network to continue to get millions of dollars worth of essential items like diapers, wipes, food, cribs, and car seats into the community.

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What's your single most memorable moment with the organization?
The moments that stand out the most to me in my work are whenever our program partners invite us to take part in a celebration or graduation event. All of the programs we donate goods to provide services aimed at supporting the whole family as a way to address intergenerational poverty. To be present to celebrate the achievements within their communities is such an inspiring moment. Participating in graduation celebrations—from the four year olds graduating pre-school and getting ready to take on kindergarten to the dads finishing career training programs to the toddlers and their moms completing the Nurse-Family Partnership curriculum—really helps to remind me why it is so important that we keep fighting for a more equitable society.

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