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Supporting 10,000 Bristol families in under 10 years

Four of our fabulous warehouse volunteers (left to right): Louise, Val, Moira and Mel.

Last week Baby Bank Network Bristol reached a monumental milestone: our 10,000th family bundle delivered.  Since our inception in 2015, we have distributed over 411,000 essential items to families experiencing poverty or crisis across Bristol. Bought new, these items would have been worth nearly £3 million. 

Our impact in numbers:

  • 10,000 families supported
  • Over 411,000 items distributed
  • 122 referral agency partners
  • 444 individual referral partners
  • 160 families on average supported every month

Each bundle represents a lifeline for a family in need. From safe sleep kits with cots and new mattresses to toiletry packs and pre-loved clothing, these essentials make a tangible difference in the lives of parents and children.

 

Our story

Our journey began with three local mums volunteering from their kitchen tables, sorting donations in garages and spare rooms – often with babies strapped to their chests.

 Today, we’ve grown into a vital community service, recognised for our commitment to supporting families with children up to 5 years old.   Every bundle we prepare is more than just items – it’s a message of hope and support.  A safe place for a baby to sleep, a pram for a parent to explore the world with their child, or simply the peace of mind that comes from having the essentials covered. These are the real impacts of our work.

 As we approach our 10th birthday next year, we are more committed than ever to our mission. With your continued support, we will keep growing, adapting, and serving the families of Bristol who need us most.   Join us in celebrating this milestone and help us write the next chapter of Baby Bank Bristol’s story of community, compassion and change.

Baby Bank Network Co-Founders (left to right), Melissa Burger, Becky Gilbert and Eva Fernandes.

“When we started Baby Bank Network Bristol we didn’t have any expectations about how it would grow to the extent that it has. A big reason for me being involved was because I wanted to ensure that there was more re-use of baby kit and clothes, that would otherwise be thrown away or go to people who could actually afford to buy new.  I am so proud that we have helped so many families, and avoided emissions through less waste and less new items needing to be manufactured in the first place. I’m also proud that we have created meaningful work and volunteering opportunities for all the people who have helped us in the past 9 years, as well as supporting the referral partners to do their jobs more effectively.”

Eva Fernandes, Co-Founder and Trustee

More than a number

10,000 isn’t just a number. Each referral represents a family facing extraordinary challenges:

  • Parents fleeing domestic abuse, seeking safety for their children
  • Asylum seekers starting a new life in an unfamiliar land
  • Families facing homelessness
  • Those grappling with unexpected job loss or other financial difficulties.

Our support is a reminder that no family stands alone in our community, especially at the challenging time of bringing up young children. By providing essential items, we are not just meeting material needs.  We are offering dignity, hope, and the assurance that Bristol cares. Each bundle we prepare is a step towards a more stable future for a family in crisis.

Jane Dennett, one of our long-standing referral partners from Central Bristol Children's Centre

“Since 2017 I have referred 61 families to Baby Bank Network Bristol. The families are often from marginalised communities, with no recourse to public funds, facing insecure housing and financial difficulties.  Providing equipment such as pushchairs and cots for their children just isn’t possible without support. Baby Bank Network provides quick access to these much needed resources, helping parents to feel they are providing for their children and keeping them safe.  The families are extremely pleased with the good quality (mostly preloved) items they receive.

This support has resulted in better mental health for parents, including improving their feelings about being a good parent who can provide for their children.  Their children are safer due to the equipment they receive, particularly cots and Moses baskets.  The breast pumps, sterilisers and bottles provided support our breast feeding strategy, and enable supportive conversations around breast feeding, and accessing support around feeding concerns promptly.

Through referring to Baby Bank Network we can build trust with the families by showing we value and can help keep safer, their most important priority – their children.  This opens up conversations about safe sleeping and health inequalities such as vaccinations and linking into other midwifery services.  For example, with the Roma community we support, this enables engagement so they can then access advice and support through our drop-in to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and schooling.  

The service Baby Bank Network provides is invaluable!  I can rely on it, and there are no complicated forms to complete, and no over sharing of families’ situations. The staff are always warm and welcoming, very flexible and accommodating in emergency situations. Honestly, I don’t know how I, or the families we support would manage without this invaluable service!” 

Jane Dennett, GRT Lead – Central and East Bristol, Central Bristol Children’s Centre.

Between April 2023 and March 2024 staff at the Central Bristol Children’s Centre made referrals for 66 families to Baby Bank Network.

 

A team effort

It has taken a huge amount of time, energy, hardwork and determination from a lot of people to reach this milestone!  Far too many to mention them all, but we would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has enabled Baby Bank Network Bristol to get to this point, and to support so many families over the years. Our past and present trustees, volunteers, donors and funders, referral partners, corporate partners, regular givers and the co-founders who (through a lot of hard work) made their idea a reality 9 years ago.  

If you have been a part of this journey in any way – thank you so much!

 (Left) Ellen receiving the 2015 Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner Pride Award for her work running the Baby Bank Network warehouse in Bristol. (Right) Ellen sorting donations for our temporary charity shop in Sparks Bristol in 2023.

“I joined in 2015. In those early days volunteering at the warehouse meant pretty much doing everything – from receiving a referral, to making sure we had the items needed (or getting hold of them), to arranging for them to be collected.  I ran the Bristol 10k in 2017 to raise funds, have helped at events and donation days, and last year I volunteered at Baby Bank Network’s temporary charity shop in Sparks Bristol.  It’s been phenomenal to be a part of such a fantastic local charity, to see how it‘s developed over the years, and to know that through the determination of the founders, and dedication of the volunteer team, together we have been able to support so many families in Bristol, as well as ensure so many items are re-used!”  

Ellen Marsh, Baby Bank Network Volunteer.

 

The future

Although we are grateful we have been able to support so many families over the last 9 years, reaching this milestone also comes with a feeling of sadness.  Reflecting on the fact that so many families in Bristol have found themselves in situations where they have needed to use our service.  With referrals increasing each year, and this trend reflected across the sector, we know there is still a lot of work to be done. 

“It is hard to believe that our original goal was to help 3 families per week, then 10. Recently on average it has been around 40 families each week, with our busiest week ever being 76. It has grown so much, yet there are still many more families that need support. Looking ahead, we want to keep growing our core service, but also look at how we can adapt to reach more families, and to work with other organisations in new ways. Of course, none of this would be possible without our amazing team of staff and volunteers, who consistently go above and beyond to make Baby Bank Network the organisation it is.”

Becky Gilbert, Co-founder and CEO of Baby Bank Network

Most importantly though, we are sending our very best wishes to all the 10,000 families we have been able to support since 2015.  If you are a family that has accessed our service, we would love to hear from you.  We are looking for families that have received items from Baby Bank Network to share their stories as part of our 10th birthday celebrations next year, please get in touch on info@babybanknetwork.com for further information, and so we can discuss this with you.

Further Information

  • Watch a short film about Baby Bank Network Bristol.

How to support our work

Baby Bank Network Bristol relies on the generosity of our supporters.  There are lots of ways you can support such as: 

  • Making a regular donation
  • Volunteering
  • Fundraising
  • Donating pre-loved items for babies and young children
  • Donating new toiletries 
  • Becoming a corporate partner

To find out more visit our “Support Us” page.