Hope & Comfort Teams with 150 Nonprofit Partners to Fill a Need
Home and Comfort

November 19, 2020 — Hope & Comfort, a Needham nonprofit that provides essential hygiene products to children and young adults in need in Massachusetts, this year planned to double last year’s level, but is now on track to more than tripling that number due to the coronavirus pandemic – and is doing that by relying on a small staff, dedicated volunteers, and a network of 150 nonprofit partners.

Since 2011, Hope & Comfort has been addressing hygiene insecurity, a term many had not heard about before Hope & Comfort came around, is defined by its founder and president Jeff Feingold as a lack of access to essential hygiene products, largely due to a lack of money.

Two years ago, Hope & Comfort distributed 300,000 products. That number grew to 500,000 last year, leading the organization to aim to dispense one million items in 2020. After the pandemic hit Massachusetts in March, the board, also chaired by Feingold, upped its target to 1.5 million for the year. As of today, with more than six weeks to go, it has distributed 1,454,062 products.

It’s doing that by partnering closely with more than 150 Massachusetts nonprofits large and small, including Catie’s Closet, Dignity Matters, the Greater Boston Food Bank, and dozens of nonprofits that serve youth, family, and communities, as well as public schools, colleges, and universities.

“One of our secret sauces is working with 150 nonprofits, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment for an organization of our size,” noted Feingold.

With an annual operating budget of $1 million, Hope & Comfort has three paid full-time employees, plus Feingold, who works full-time but is not paid. It also has five part-time employees, including a grant writer, and, new this year, a hygiene product purchasing expert, an addition planned before the pandemic.

Efficiency is of paramount concern to Feingold, who honed his management and financial skills while working at Fidelity Investments for more than 20 years.

“Other nonprofits in our space buy products, but unless you’re big you can’t purchase products at scale with real purchasing power. The more we create purchasing power, the more impact we can have. At the end of the day, we’re a distributor, a highly impactful and valued added one, but a large part of our success still depends on getting products at low cost,” said Feingold.

This year Hope & Comfort expects to raise $1 million from corporate, foundation, and individual donors to fund the purchase of hygiene products, and expects to receive in-kind donations of similar value.

Last year, a cadre of 750 volunteers working from the organization’s 5,000-square-foot warehouse helped pack hygiene kits for individual use and distribute products in bulk. State guidelines limiting gatherings during the pandemic caused that number to drop, leading Hope & Comfort to stop making hygiene kits and instead rely solely on mass distribution via nonprofit partners.

Impressive as this year’s ramp-up has been, Hope & Comfort is addressing a fraction of the need, according to Feingold.

He estimates that 250,000 children in Massachusetts under age 18 are hygiene insecure. Supplying five core products—deodorant, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and tooth brushes—on a monthly basis would require distributing 15 million items over a year. Moreover, he said, there are likely 700,000 children and young adults across the state who are hygiene insecure so the ultimate need unfortunately across Massachusetts two to three times even that 15 million items.

“In the short term, we want to make it to the other side of Covid and help as many people as we can,” said Feingold. “Then we’ll collect our thoughts and figure out the most cost effective way to scale.

“The status quo isn’t an option. Longer term, if someone can do it faster, cheaper, and with more dignity, we should join them or let them do it. The faster we solve the issue and go out of business, the better."