We recently sat down with Lisa Klein, a mother of two and founder and executive director of Loved Twice, a non-profit dedicated to helping San Francisco Bay Area families in need by providing newborn babies with recycled clothing. A long-time resident of Rockridge, Lisa shared her story about the important work she does with Loved Twice and her family’s favorite neighborhood spots to shop, eat and play.  So take note Bay Area peeps — we can’t think of a better way to scope out a new neighborhood than with the expert tips and advice from a local mom (and business owner) who’s just like us.

You’ve lived in the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland for ten years now. What do you like best about living in the east bay and your neighborhood, in particular?

I lived in San Francisco for ten years and loved every minute of it. When I started to think about starting a family, I wanted to live somewhere a bit warmer, flatter and where I could have a bit more space. I don’t think I am alone in this thinking. Rockridge is full of new families. Walk down College Avenue on any given weekend and I guarantee you will count at least 50 strollers. When I am missing the city, I love that I can walk to BART and be in San Francisco within 30 minutes.

Could you fill us in on your favorite spots for the following activities?

Favorite family restaurant?

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Oakland has really changed in the past 10 years. We were just rated the #5 place to visit by The New York Times and we have some amazing restaurants.

One of our favorite restaurants is Wood Tavern for their crispy pork belly topped with a soft poached egg. We also love the view from Paragon Restaurant at the Claremont Hotel and especially their ahi tuna poke served in a martin glass!

Which are your favorite shops to buy clothes/gear/toys for your kids?

In the spirit of reuse (and saving money), I have always purchased my children’s clothes at consignment shops. That way when they spill or damage their garments, it really doesn’t matter. If my daughter wants to wear her Christmas dress to art class, go ahead! She is only a kid once. My favorites stores are: Grove Street Kids, Child’s Play, Hannah’s, and Marin Kids Consignment, and for great toys we go to Rockridge Kids.

Best rainy day hang-out with the kids?

My kids’ choice: Putting on rain boots and splashing in mud puddles then coming home to a warm bubble bath and warming up beside the fireplace.

My choice: Museums! Oakland Museum of California and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art both have hands-on activities that encourage kids and families to engage with art and one another.

Best place for Sunday brunch?

I have a five-year-old. So standing in line for brunch then waiting to be served is not a peaceful scene. I would much rather grab a strong latte at Peet’s Coffee on College Avenue then have a potluck pancake brunch with my neighbors.

Best place to grab a bite for lunch and what do you and your children like to order?

My kids love sushi. They love to watch the boat go around at Takara. This restaurant is kid-friendly and accommodates our special requests. My little one likes to have his own creation made – cream cheese nigiri. My older one likes her miso soup without seaweed, scallions, and topped with one ice cube. Becky’s Chinese is also a tasty local restaurant. It is owned by a family that attends our elementary school. Not only is the food great, but they donate a percentage back to the school.

Best place to get some fresh air, maybe a hike or bike ride?

Temescal Farmers Market on Sundays from 9:00 am – 100 pm is a staple. I loathe grocery shopping and here I can stock up for the week with: pot pies, tamales, fresh meats, vegetables, flowers and pastries from Bakesale Betty (pictured).

Favorite date night spot with your hubby?

The Oakland Athletics have been very supportive of my nonprofit. Being at the stadium so many times has turned my husband and me into baseball fans. We love watching the game at Westside Club. It’s a great indoor restaurant at the top of the stadium with amazing views.

Best-kept neighborhood secret?

1. At the Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop, you can get a grilled cheese and a bowl of soup for under $6.00.

2. The Temescal Tool Lending Library has a basement full of tools to rent for weekend projects: chainsaws, tile saws, and heat guns!

3. California College of the Arts has an art gallery open to the public on Friday nights. Having a former art background, I love seeing the work of upcoming artists.

What are some of Rockridge’s annual festivals or events your family enjoys going to?

We have some amazing annual festivals my two favorite are: Rockridge Out & About (October 7th, 2012) College Avenue is blocked off from Alcatraz to Manila. There are bands, a chef’s stage, a kids’ court, and of course, lots of local shopping.

My other favorite annual event is the Heart of the Home tour (April 27 and 28, 2012). The tour showcases breathtaking neighborhood homes and ticket sales raise funds for at-risk kids in the East Bay.

Your neighborhood is known for its family-friendly block parties. How did this tradition come about and what’s your advice for other families who would like to do the same?

I love our neighborhood. Our block captain has lived here for 40 years and our street has been having yearly parties since before I was born. We have a Yahoo Group where neighbors can correspond with each other. We have a yearly block party, a Halloween party, and at any given night there are a dozen kids riding bikes up and down the sidewalks.

Do you have particular things you want to do with your children before they grow up and are too cool to hang out with Mom anymore?

I know those “watch this” moments will be gone soon and I want to cherish every moment with them until then. I love that they run to my room every morning in their footed pajamas. I want to help braid their dolls hair, I want to kiss boo boo’s, I want to wash their favorite Star Wars T-shirt so they can wear it the next day, I want to enjoy and celebrate all the little things moms get to do.

You founded a non-profit organization called Loved Twice that gives boxes of infant clothing to newborns in need at San Francisco bay area hospitals. How did you first get the idea to begin Loved Twice and how has it changed over the years?

Loved Twice started in 2005 when I responded to New Orleans Craig’s List posting for donations of baby clothing to help families displaced after Hurricane Katrina. Having just had my first child, I was deeply moved to contribute. I rallied other Bay Area mothers and collected 200 pounds of clothing for the babies in Louisiana in just four days. After mailing off the donated newborn clothes, I realized that the same simple process of recycling gently used baby clothing to provide for infants in need could be applied to babies right here in the Bay Area. I founded Loved Twice, a 501(c))(3) nonprofit to help local underprivileged newborns, giving disadvantaged babies a better start in life.

Today, Loved Twice has grown into an effective grassroots organization that is embraced by the communities it serves throughout the Bay Area. Since 2005, Loved Twice has clothed more than 4,000 newborns, helping vulnerable families meet their basic needs while keeping over 40,000 pounds of clothing out of landfills. That’s over 300,000 essential garments recycled into undeserved communities with an estimated retail value of $900,000! We provide baby clothes exclusively to social service agencies (never to individuals). Our clothes are distributed at local hospitals, shelters, prenatal clinics and safe homes.

What’s next for Loved Twice?

Loved Twice is expanding so fast. Last year alone we distributed wardrobes-in-a-box to 2,027 newborns-in-need with over 152,000 essential garments. This year we will move into a larger space where we can accept, process and distribute many, many more baby clothes. Last year, we provided clothes to 72 local hospitals, shelters, prenatal clinics, and safe homes. But, there were still 32 additional agencies we couldn’t help. Loved Twice needs two things to operate: baby clothes and funding. We are pretty darn good at getting baby clothes (20,000 pounds last year alone!). In addition to needing more baby clothes, we also need volunteers to help fundraise. We simply can’t have one without the other. Please visit www.lovedtwice.org to donate funds, donate clothes, or donate time.

–Nicki Richesin