"Good eggs" run Robyn's Nest organization
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin is one of the nation's top pediatric facilities and is known for its incredible medical care services. Less known is that Children's Hospital also provides a vast array of social services.
Lona Long is a community specialist for Children's, and part of her role is to oversee the Robyn's Nest.
"The Children's Hospital umbrella is very vast, but we are all trying to achieve the goal of having the healthiest kids in the nation," says Long. "We are one team with one goal."
Located in West Allis, the Robyn's Nest is a warehouse filled with clothing, hygiene products, diapers, books, school supplies and some household items that are available to children and families who are associated with any of Children's Hospital's services, including medical, prevention, counseling, child welfare and foster care.
"We provide a lot of clothing and items to our foster families," says Long. "They are responding to an immediate crisis and might take in a baby or a 9-year-old child with very little notice. It's unrealistic to expect our foster families to have a wide range of clothing on hand."
The Robyn's Nest is run by volunteers who take shifts to unpack, sort, organize and stock donated items. The space, thanks to Long – a trained librarian – is extremely organized.
"I would go Dewey Decimal on the space if I could," she jokes.
The Robyn's Nest started in Robyn Hitchmen's office cubicle. Hitchmen, who worked for Children's, saw a need and asked her co-workers to donate gently used item for kids involved in the Children's programs.
"It started in a cube, then it moved into a room and now it's in our building," says Long. "We are even starting to outgrow this space, too. We are inundated with donations. The community is very generous to us."
The Robyn's Nest accepts gently used and new donations of clothing that range in size from newborn to adult and for both genders.
Long says her donation bins are filled to the top most days. Sometimes, her volunteers will empty all of the bins, only to have them immediately refilled with items.
"If the item is not what I would consider wearable, I put it in my recycling bin. I have high standards," says Long. "I also automatically recycle any (Chicago) Bears' clothing."
Long sells the unusable items to a recycler for 10 cents a pound. The recycler then sells the items to developing countries or to car and casket companies to use as stuffing.
"Everything eventually gets used," says Long.
Diapers, baby wipes, chapstick, new socks, new undergarments and hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, deodorant and products for African American hair are also always in demand.
"Once you have your basic needs met you can handle other issues that come your way, but if you don't have your basic needs met, you are struggling," says Long.
Robyn's Nest also accepts monetary donations to supplement needs.
"For example, a teen in a group home right now needs a pair of size 12 shoes, which we don't have, so I am going to go out and buy him a pair," says Long.
During the holidays, The Robyn's Nest also has a toy drive.
"A semi truck packed with toys pulls up in front of the building," says Long. "We stage an incredible toy give-away during the holidays."
The big picture of The Robyn's Nest is incredible – serving more than 1,200 children every year – but it's the details inside the space that are truly heartwarming. There's a bin filled with cute teddy bears made by men in the Racine Correctional Institute. Long created a makeshift dressing room for the teenagers who need to make sure they look good in the clothing before they take it. An oversized check for $1,300 is displayed on a table.
"Teenagers at Veritas school raised this money for us," says Long. "Teenagers did that. They were so proud of themselves, and they should be."
To donate to The Robyn's Nest, contact Lona Long at Lona.firstname.lastname@example.org or (414) 231-4820.
OnMilwaukee is organizing a sock drive for the Robyn's Nest. Contact Molly Snyder at email@example.com to donate or to find out more information.
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