By Leah Fallon
Anna Thorner never intended to start a nonprofit. Her organization, It Takes a Village, Baby, began almost by accident.
She frequented an area Starbucks while on maternity leave with her second baby, where she watched her young barista’s baby-belly grow. After asking how her pregnancy was going and if she had everything she needed for the baby, her response was one that Thorner now has heard a dozen times—she was scared, lost and confused and had no support for her baby.
The 37-year-old Leesburg resident called on her neighbors to donate used baby items and was surprised and pleased by the response. She received more items than she needed, and quickly found other women who could use support. As the need for baby items grew, so did the donations. She was soon storing donations in her home, along with six other friends’ homes throughout Loudoun County.
In 2014, she officially formed It Takes a Village, Baby.
“The heart of my mission is to allow every baby to have equal footing in life,” Thorner said, “no matter the financial circumstances of their parents.”
Since its inception, the organization, affectionately called “The Village” by the families it’s helped, has provided new and gently used baby clothes and equipment to more than 400 families in and around Loudoun County. And the number of expecting mothers who need help continues to grow. This month, The Village has 26 new babies in need of immediate assistance.
Thirty-year-old Brandi Carlisle from Martinsburg, WV, says The Village saved her family. When she and her boyfriend, Tyler Rizzie, found out they were expecting their third child, they panicked. They felt like they had nothing to offer their new baby boy, not even a diaper. Rizzie had lost his job, so the family had to move into a two-bedroom townhouse with his mother. To try and get back on their feet, they sold one of their cars, and had started selling items from their storage unit when they heard about The Village.
Thorner and her two children delivered a minivan full of baby goods, such as diapers, a high chair, a crib, clothes and a bouncy seat. “We didn’t have a baby shower. The Village is the only reason we had anything for our baby,” Carlisle said. “They provided absolutely everything up until he was six months old.”
It started a chain reaction of giving. Carlisle now collects items to give to friends and other moms in need.
Thorner said there are no typical families in The Village. They range from teen moms and poor families, to women who have left abusive relationships or lost their job because of pregnancy.
“It could be your neighbor,” Thorner said. She recalls delivering to a neighborhood that was nicer than her own, only to walk into a house that was clear of furniture because the family was underwater on their mortgage.
“A lot of moms need this kind of help. Young mothers who can’t provide for themselves, let alone a baby,” Carlisle said. “Sometimes it’s bad luck.”
Thorner and her team of volunteers want to go beyond providing baby swings and diapers. The long-term vision is to provide new parents in need with housing, child care and support for job searches.
But there is a long way to go and so much more support the organization needs such as volunteers, financial support, and donations. The immediate need is to raise enough money to cover the cost of six storage units they rent in Leesburg and Aldie, or find a free or low-cost barn or warehouse to keep donations until they are ready for pick up.
“We will not be able to cover the cost of the storage units come October,” Thorner said. “If we don’t have a steady influx of money, The Village will be homeless.”
The organization is still waiting to hear back about a $150,000 grant volunteers applied for.
The Village is also always looking for donated items, such as diapers, wipes, toiletries and other baby goods. See information about when and where to drop off items at itavb.org. An open house for those interested in volunteering will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at Cascades Library, 21030 Whitfield Place in Potomac Falls.