Community action ensures great first year for Baby Bank Network

July 04 2016

Baby Bank Network, a charity that helps distribute pre loved baby essentials to families in need, joined forces with nurseries throughout Bristol for a ‘Bring A Book For Baby Bank Network’ fundraiser to celebrate its first birthday on June 11.

Bristol Mum

Baby Bank Network, a charity that helps distribute pre loved baby essentials to families in need, joined forces with nurseries throughout Bristol for a ‘Bring A Book For Baby Bank Network’ fundraiser to celebrate its first birthday on June 11.

Local nurseries supporting the initiative included Ashgrove Park and Clyde House nurseries in Bishopston and Pooh Corner and Torwood House in Redland. Parents and children were encouraged to donate one of their books and add a financial donation.

Established just a year ago in Bristol, Baby Bank Network has grown quickly to become a significant charity tackling child poverty and promoting reuse. It achieved full charity status in February and has been shortlisted for several awards, including the Women in Business Awards and Green Volunteers Awards. With ambitions to expand to other cities in the UK, the charity relies on a network of volunteers and referral partners to deliver its service to babies in need.

A team of around 50 volunteers, mostly mums of young children, began distributing hundreds of items to families in need within two months of launching and has now given more than 1,000 items to almost 250 families, including prams, cots, clothes, toys and nappies. Originally operating out of a donated storage unit at Big Yellow Storage in St Phillips, Baby Bank Network is now using a temporary unit in Southmead in which it collects, sorts and prepares the thousands of donations it receives from families across Bristol. It is still seeking a permanent home in the city.

“It’s amazing to think that what started as an idea between two mums has quickly grown to become such a force to be reckoned with”, said Laura Williams, volunteer marketing & communications manager. 

“I’m part of a team of volunteers who put in hours and hours to help babies in need and the feedback we’re getting shows it’s making a real difference to so many women and babies in Bristol. It’s community action at its best,” she added.

The charity works with almost 150 referral partners across the city, including health visitors and midwives, Homestart and Shelter in order to reach the most vulnerable families, including refugees, victims of domestic violence and homeless families as well as low income families and teenage mums.

Alice recently became a mum of twins. As one of many low income families in Bristol, she was struggling to afford or find everything she needed for her babies, so she turned to Baby Bank Network. She was given a package of baby essentials, which she returned to the charity after use.

“I didn’t expect to be having twins and while we managed to get some hand me downs and buy some bits,” said Alice. “We’re a low income family and couldn’t afford to buy everything new but we weren’t quite prepared for everything we needed. We were desperate and Baby Bank really helped us out.”

One of the referral partners, a family worker, said: “I was absolutely amazed at the quality, quantity and range of baby goods provided. The mum’s face and reaction was priceless when she saw everything. Her face absolutely lit up and I know that Baby Bank Network has made an immense difference to her, and to her pregnancy and the arrival of her baby girl.”

“It’s been an incredible first year,” said Co Founder, Becky Gilbert. “We’ve shown what you can do with a good idea and a large dose of goodwill. We won’t be stopping here. Now we’ve achieved full charity status and have good processes in place to collect and distribute our items, we’ll be focussing on finding our forever home and expanding the network to other cities and towns.”

Co Founder, Eva Fernandes, added: “We’ve been overwhelmed with donations of items to pass on to babies in need and have enough donated baby clothes to deliver hundreds of referrals, but we rely on financial donations on top of this to be able to buy items such as mattresses and bottle teats which we must provide brand new.

“The more referrals we do, the more costs we incur in terms of collecting, storing and cleaning the items. We’ve got a brilliant team of volunteers and are delivering the service very efficiently, but we always need more funds to help cover our overheads and secure our forever home.

"Fundraisers such as these are vital for us to build on the great work we’ve already done.” For more information visit http://www.babybanknetwork.com or search ‘Baby Bank Network’ on Facebook or Twitter @BabyBankNetwork