The last time the Pittsburgh-based Cribs for Kids staff was together in one room was on March 12th. There was a nervous energy in the air as they celebrated their 15th Annual Women of Achievement Awards at the Omni William Penn Hotel. The news of the pandemic was breaking as they honored 25 of Pittsburgh’s most prominent female leaders. They said goodbye that evening, assuming they might be in store for a two-week office shutdown. They had no way of knowing that they would still be separated and that one of their own, Barbara Clemons, would succumb to the virus a little over one month later.
As Director of Product Development, Barb was responsible for laying out the blueprint for the growth of the organization. Not only was she instrumental in the design of the organization’s infant safe sleep products; she also worked with Asian markets to oversee the production and domestic importing of those products. Her primary responsibility, fulfilling orders to Cribs for Kids’ partners throughout the country, was what Barb loved to do. She wasn’t satisfied until she was sure she had secured the best available shipping rate and that the shipments left her warehouse in pristine condition. In addition to these responsibilities, Barb was a founder of ette cetera!, a for-profit subsidiary of Cribs for Kids formed to sell safe sleep products to the general public, with 100% of the proceeds used to fulfill Cribs for Kids’ mission. As president of this subsidiary, Barb was planning a launch of ette cetera! in May of 2020.
Shouldering the loss of Barb and the shock of the pandemic, and under the guidance of Founder and Executive Director Judy Bannon, the staff has been able to quickly adapt to working from home and continue to grow the organization. With a grant from the Jefferson Regional Foundation and the guidance of Cribs for Kids Board Member Luci Casile, a business banker from Key Bank, the agency is experiencing a surge of growth through the crisis. Luci worked tirelessly to assure that there would be no interruption in the organization’s mission by helping Cribs for Kids process a Key Bank Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan. Luci, a 2017 Cribs for Kids Women of Achievement awardee, has been instrumental in the survival and growth of the organization for the last 20 years. Judy has been so impressed by Luci’s work that she wrote about her in her book, “Five Ladies and a Forklift.”
The Jefferson Regional Foundation grant has allowed Cribs for Kids to launch a new program. The At Home Program provides on-line safe sleep education and enables the shipping of Cribettes directly to the homes of partner-referred families in place of distribution at in-person events. This work has become even more essential as families all over the nation bear the financial burden of job loss and a devastated economy. In June, the staff realized Barb’s dream and launched the online baby products store, ette cetera!, with the tagline Shop to Save Lives. Products ship with infant safe sleep education included, and 100% of the profits support Cribs for Kids’ mission of helping every baby sleep safer.