VOLUNTEERS from a local charity that supports new mums and families living in extreme need were the guest speakers at Maidenhead Rotary Club this week.
Rebecca Mistry, a co-founder of The Baby Bank, and her colleague Lauren Hall outlined the vital work the charity does to prevent families in hardship ‘falling between the cracks’ in our community.
The Baby Bank provides packages of essentials such as nappies, clothes,cots, buggies, toys and toiletries to struggling families. Founded in Windsor in 2015, the charity quickly expanded to cover the whole Royal Borough and beyond, and evolved from supporting just babies to families with children aged up to 16.
“Our mission is to support children and families living in hardship by providing essentials in a caring, compassionate and sustainable way. We believe that early intervention can reduce the long-term effects of poverty,” said Rebecca.
Most of the items it distributes are donated and the charity works with referral partners such as midwives, health visitors, schools, social workers, churches and foodbanks to target those most in need.
It is often called upon in emergencies and Rebecca and Lauren gave the recent example of helping an expectant mum who was living in hotel accommodation.
“She had literally nothing and we were able to provide her with everything she needed at short notice. You could hear the relief in her health worker’s voice when we said we could help,” said Rebecca.
The Baby Bank is now an essential part of the local support ecosystem. Last year it helped 3,251 individuals. To date this year it has already helped
1,284 people and Rebecca calculates it has supported more than 17,000 people since it was founded.
Demand for its services increased 100 per cent during the first year of the pandemic and, even though Covid restrictions have eased, is still growing due to the cost of living crisis.
Donated items like buggies often make their way back to the charity once recipients have outgrown them so they can be used again. Items donated to the charity need to be newer than 10 years old and clean.
“Through the re-gifting of clean clothes, a working buggy or an outgrown cot we are reducing CO2 emissions, cutting down on landfill and saving people money,” said Rebecca.
The exceptions are mattresses and child car seats which must be provided new, funded by donations from businesses and other supporters including a National Lottery grant.
Rotarians were shocked to hear about the problem of ‘bed poverty’ identified by the charity – where children do not have a proper bed to sleep in or have to share one.
“Bed poverty forms a huge part of what we do. Last year we provided 631 different beds from cots to bunk beds,” said Rebecca, explaining the charity also provides bedding bundles made up of sheets, blankets and duvet covers and, where requested, quilts as well.
Lauren added: “We are like an emergency service and there are so many families relying on us, now more than ever before.”
Thanking them for the talk, the club made a donation to The Baby Bank. Individual members also plan to support the charity with donations of useful items.
To support The Baby Bank see https://www.thebabybank.org/