Ethical Friends of Children: Helping Families in Need

Volunteers, from left: Pat Spencer, Eamon Meenaghan and Judy Rosemarin in the boutique

Ethical Friends of Children (EFC) is an outreach program of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island (EHSLI), a chapter of the American Humanist Association established in 1985. We collect items for children and give them to families in need. Ethical Friends of Children, originally called Friends for the Homeless, began when members of the Ethical Society of LI—Emily Lewis and Harry Allen—became acutely aware of the hidden poverty and homelessness on Long Island after participating in a clothing drive run by a local radio station. Why can’t our Ethical Society do something, they wondered? They got the approval of the board and began. When Emily and Harry moved to Massachusetts, others stepped in to run the program.

We believe that Ethical Friends of Children is unique in all of Long Island.

Ethical Friends of Children has been a meaningful journey for me. How I found my way here will help explain the soul and spirit that informs this outreach.

My parents were people who gave back to their community. They were role models for me, people who loved their neighbors and ministered to “the least of their brethren.” My father hired people with disabilities and minorities when it was neither fashionable nor required. My mother took care of struggling families by bringing food to them. Her experience in the Great Depression helped families by teaching them to create healthy, low-cost meals. My mother was very religious; my father, not so much, but he lived doing what he thought was the right thing. He had a big heart and a generous spirit. I like to think I followed in his footsteps.

Jim LoPresti

When I found my way to EHSLI, I saw a community of people who wanted to make the world a better place. I volunteered to help out at Ethical Friends of Children. My first task was to deliver a crib and some toys. The children had tattered clothing and didn’t have shoes. The home of the family was in major disrepair—broken windows, peeling paint, a garage door off its track. The inside had ragged carpeting and mold on the walls. It hadn’t occurred to me that things could be this bad on Long Island. It broke my heart to see this. I knew I wanted to help families like this that were struggling from day to day.

At EFC we assist children and their families by providing them with clothing and other child-related items at no cost. Many of the children are referred to us by social service organizations and churches on Long Island. These include the Nassau County Department of Social Services and Town of Hempstead Department of Health. We are also supported by many religiously affiliated social service agencies (including the parish outreach of several Catholic Churches) and the Weill Fund.

For example, one winter we received a call from Nassau University Medical Center asking to help a mother and her infant. The new mother, only sixteen years old and without any prenatal care, had delivered and was being discharged from the hospital. She had no crib, no car seat, no stroller, and no baby clothes. It was twenty degrees outside and she was wearing a summer jacket, sandals, and no socks. The baby was wearing only pajamas. The mother owned nothing and had nowhere to turn.

EFC was here to help. We provided infant clothing and baby items and some winter clothes for the mother, as well.

All gently used items are collected by donations from individual families or community groups. All cash donations are used to buy items for children. Our “store” lets families come to pick out the things that they need at no cost to them. We are open with limited hours.

We are staffed entirely by volunteers who sort, organize and store donated clothing in clean usable condition. They store large items such as cribs, car seats and highchairs. They pick up and deliver furniture if necessary. This is especially important because it is the only way for people who are without cars to get these items.

Thirty years ago, when I was asked to take over the program, I decided that we needed a different arrangement for people to get the clothes they needed for their children. So we opened a boutique without a cash register—a place to “shop” for clothing, toys, and everything we offer.

Instead of getting a list of what parents needed with volunteers picking out the items, we invite the parents to come in and pick out what they know will fit their child. This “shopping” experience brings a level of dignity and control to this service.

According to co-founder Emily Lewis, who now lives in Massachusetts, “Looking back, I feel a sense of satisfaction that this project has evolved so beautifully. One often doesn’t know if an effort goes on. This one did and I offer my deep thanks to the Society.”

Items we regularly need include:

  • Children’s clothing ages 0 to 12 years
  • Diapers
  • Baby bottles and formula
  • Car seats
  • Highchairs
  • Cribs, portable cribs, pack and play…in short, a safe place for the baby to sleep.
  • Crib mattresses
  • Toys
  • Towels, sheets, and blankets
  • Strollers

If you would like to donate or find ways to help, please visit our website at and go to “Social Action”, contact us at 516-280-5526, or email us at