By Sara Arnold
Posted Dec 21, 2019 at 1:32 AM
CLINTON – Jean and Bob Roofe are helping young families in need of a little practical assistance in their baby’s first year of life.
Their organization, Loved Twice, collects new and gently-used baby clothes in sizes up to 12 months. The couple then sort the clothes, place them into boxes, and personally distribute them to area social services, hospitals, family resource centers, and directly to individuals in need.
Since 2011, they have donated 1,488 boxes with 50 to 75 articles of clothing in each box.
They also include receiving blankets, baby hats, socks, bibs, and diapers in the boxes – as well as a few used, but clean, board books because Jean is a retired Clinton Elementary School teacher.
“You can’t take the teacher out of me,” she said. They do not collect or distribute toys, bottles, or baby equipment for logistics and safety reasons.
“After marrying in 1998, we found a home in Clinton near my school,” said Jean, and they raised a family. As Jean retired from education and Bob retired from his job as a chemist, the couple wanted to give back to the community.
“Because of my passion for helping children, I began to research ways to help less fortunate babies in our own area,” Jean said.
Nine years ago, Jean heard about Lisa Klein, a mother in California who “was moved to help Hurricane Katrina victims in need of clothing” and whose vision turned into the Loved Twice project, where volunteers across the country collect and distribute baby clothes in their region.
Jean knew this was the right fit for her and Bob, and they’ve been Loved Twice ever since.
The Roofes generally work by themselves out of their “large family room,” with the occasional parent or grandchild assisting them.
“Bob is the muscle and PR man,” Jean said, using his hand cart to carry boxes into facilities and answering calls about donations, whereas Jean is the one who “sorts, categorizes, and fills the boxes” as well as answers emails.
“We hope to continue collecting and donating baby clothes as long as we are able,” Jean said.
While not a religious organization – Loved Twice is secular and helps any family with an infant in need – the Roofes consider it their “ministry.” This is because, in its early stages, their church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Leominster, welcomed their idea to help needy families with infants and was a tremendous support in getting Loved Twice off the ground. There is still a red bucket in the church hall for parishioners to donate baby clothes.
The Roofes’ only goal has been to help others with the boxes of baby clothing, but they have found their work has fostered connections between other organizations that support families in need with those seeking that help. Jean compares the journey “to a pebble skipping across the surface of a lake. One action connects to another which then connects to more agencies and folks in need. Amazing things started and continue to happen.”
Jean and Bob find the families they help via word-of-mouth referrals, and that’s also how they sometimes add to the local agencies and centers they serve.
In fact, word-of-mouth is how the Roofes do everything. Other than the national Loved Twice website, they have no website or Facebook Page (although they do post occasionally on NextDoor). They have not reached out to ask anyone else for help or for donations.
“It is amazing how this project touches others,” Jean said.
By family, friends and “good neighbors” willing to help and supporters making connections for them, they’ve gotten publicity and assistance from many local people, churches and businesses. This includes Deb Sargent, at the Sunshine Cafe in Clinton, who has fliers and signs up for Loved Twice inside the restaurant, as well as a box for clothing donations. Cutie Patooties, a children’s consignment store in Leominster, also donates baby clothes.
“It is humbling to think of all the people who want to help others with no gain to themselves,” Jean said.
Most of the agencies, hospitals, resource centers and individual families that Loved Twice serves are in the Clinton area, but the group helps throughout central Massachusetts, including in Fitchburg, Leominster and Worcester.
Anyone who would like to donate baby clothes, but cannot get to the donation points in Leominster or Clinton, or would like to refer a family in need, can email Jean at Jroofe98@msn.com or call Bob at (978) 365-5745.
While they don’t actively collect monetary donations, anyone who wants to provide funds to help pay for a box is welcome to do so by contacting the Roofes directly.
For information on the Loved Twice national network, visit www.lovedtwice.org.