Baby Bank Network celebrates 2 years of helping babies in need with big birthday party fundraiser

A Bristol charity launched by a team of local mums celebrates its second birthday this month, having helped almost 700 babies in the city. 

Baby Bank Network is inviting supporters along to a Family Fun Day from 10am-2pm on Saturday 1st July 2017 at Horfield Parish Church Hall just off Gloucester Road in Bristol.

The 100% volunteer-run charity collects pre-loved baby essentials and gives them to families in need – this includes victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, refugees and homeless people as well as low income families. In order to reach those babies, the charity works with referral partners such as health visitors, midwives, Shelter, Next Link and Home Start. It was just weeks after its launch two years ago that the group of volunteers had helped their first family and they’re now helping at least one family a day in Bristol with plans underway to double this effort.

Co-founder and Trustee Becky Gilbert said: “It’s been an incredible couple of years. When we started collecting a few bits in a donated storage unit, little did we know just how important our charity would become. We now have a warehouse in Fishponds and are helping hundreds of babies in need every year. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved and this party is not just about raising money but about celebrating that with the volunteers and supporters who have made this all possible.”

The ‘Growing Baby Bank Network’ crowdfunding campaign (http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/baby-bank-network) was launched earlier this month to raise money to help expand and future-proof the service, with a number of rewards on offer in return for pledges. And thanks to the ‘Better Bristol’ crowdfunding initiative, Baby Bank Network has just secured £6,000 – with a stretch target of £7,500 set ahead of the end of the crowdfunder on Friday (June 30) – and hopes to be able to employ its first member of staff by the end of the year, a crucial step in its aim to ensure that no baby goes without the basics.

“We’re seeing a huge number of referrals coming in at the moment,” adds Becky, a mum of two. “We work with hundreds of referral partners and the need shows no sign of slowing down but we’re working at capacity. We were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Foundation for Children (http://www.foundationforchildren.org.uk/) to cover our rent for the next 3 years but we are in a vulnerable position whereby we’re totally relying on the goodwill of volunteers to deliver the service – most of whom are busy mums themselves.

“We wouldn’t be anywhere without our brilliant volunteers and the generosity of parents in Bristol but with demand growing and pressures on our volunteers growing, we wanted to ensure that we could continue helping people and never have to turn a family away. A staff member will help us do this and pave the way for us to take on more referral partners and help more people.”

Referral partner Amanda Bryant, from Unseen (http://www.unseenuk.org/) – a charity that helps victims of human trafficking – says that the packages that Baby Bank Network gives to the families they help are instrumental in easing the pressure on new mums. She said: “Most of our service users are single women with young children who are predominantly living in asylum seeking accommodation on a small amount of money to cover food, gas and electric and baby products. They’re obviously not in a position to work so are unable to improve their financial situation so it’s been a real lifeline to find a charity that has such good quality second hand baby items that were able to give the women at no cost to them. They’re absolutely thrilled and delighted with the help that Baby Bank Network has given.”

Baby Bank Network currently helps babies under the age of one but has ambitions to extend this to all under 5s. Earlier this year, supported the launch of its first partner organisation – Bairnecessities in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, but would like to be able to support baby bank launches in other areas of the UK.

Volunteer and Trustee Laura Williams said: “We’ve been so fortunate to receive a wealth of donations of baby items from families across Bristol but we also need funds to helps us deliver and grow our service, fundraising events like our birthday party are a big part of this and we’d invite families to come along, have a good time and help us raise some much needed money in the process.”

Baby groups and kids activity providers such as Diddi Dance, PlayHooray, Baby Sensory and Sing and Sign have kindly offered their services to Baby Bank Network for the Family Fun Day with lots of activities from storytelling to football skills and arts and crafts to outdoor games. See Facebook event (https://www.facebook.com/events/1577860848922723/?fref=ts) for full programme. 

There will be a bouncy castle, thanks to Bouncers n Shakers, face painting with Water Babies, and an animal-themed fancy dress competition as well as a Teddy Bear’s picnic, for which people are invited to bring some picnic food. Sweet treats and hot and cold drinks will be available to buy.

There will also be a raffle with lots of prizes donated by local businesses, including The Adventure Team, Babel Babies and The Parker Clinic, a cake sale and Baby Bank Network stall where you can find out more about volunteering. Entry is via suggested donation of £4 on the door for adults, £2 for children with under 2s free – all activities are then free of charge, but please do bring some money for raffle tickets and refreshments.

More information at: www.babybanknetwork.com 

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