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July 1, 2015
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The Baby Bank Network – what we have achieved so far

sorting donations at the 11th July donation event. Photo by http://www.siobhanamyphotography.com/

Sorting donations at the 11th July donation event. Photo by http://www.siobhanamyphotography.com/

A lot can be achieved in a month; even more so when you’ve got a strong cause and a seemingly never-ending supply of willing and talented women (and a couple of men).

Just over a month ago, two Bristol mums met through Twitter – Eva Fernandes and Becky Gilbert. Each had this seed in their heads, a desire to help families in need with donated pre-loved goods. Eva, as owner of Born children’s shop on Gloucester Road was coming at it from the perspective of wanting to help families who had a need for baby items but did not have the means to buy them and Becky, as a new mum for the second time, had lots of baby items she wanted to find a good home for but nowhere to give them to. The two were shortly joined by Becky’s friend Melissa Burgers who brings her financial skills to the group as its Treasurer. You can find out more about the board and the rapidly expanding team here.

Research into places which may accept baby goods in Bristol hit a brick wall, but Becky did stumble across some baby banks in other parts of the country – in Surrey and Sheffield. During her research she also came across Eva on Twitter and the pair met up for a chat and the Baby Bank Network was born.

The pair set to work straight away, hatching plans. A link was made with some children’s centres and health visitors to run a pilot scheme to refer families in need and distribute required items, from clothes and toys to cots, highchairs and pushchairs; storage space was secured thanks to the generosity of the Big Yellow Storage Unit in Bristol; and a website was created and social media accounts launched.

Within the first week, social media was very busy – with hundreds of Bristol folk interested in what the Baby Bank Network was doing, and others from further afield contacting Becky and Eva to find out more about setting up baby banks elsewhere. It was picked up by the local press – including the local TV channel and the pair were inundated with offers of support.

The next two weeks saw more people come on board to help – Melissa Burgers as Treasurer; Laura as Press and Publicity Officer; Sarah Cook as Social Media consultant, with support from Katie Bowden, Natalie Bond and Charlotte Francis; Hollie Morgan as Fundraising Co-ordinator;  Becky Kay as Donations Co-ordinator and Antonia Reynolds as Web Application Co-ordinator. The first proper meeting was held at KudaCan, which is supporting the project and more volunteers stepped forward to help.

The core team, all volunteers each with other jobs – including being parents, set to work, sharing ideas, creating processes, communication via an app called Slack and in active Facebook groups to help create a meaningful organisation. The plan is for the Baby Bank Network to be an umbrella organisation under which local baby banks, including the Bristol Baby Bank sits.

Just over a month since the kernel of the idea was planted and a friendship formed, the first big donation event took place at the Big Yellow Storage Unit – involving scores of people donating and sorting items and generally supporting the new project.

“The response has been amazing,” said Eva. “We knew we were onto something straight away. Statistics which show an unacceptable rate of child poverty in Bristol, it shouldn’t be happening here. There are plenty of resources to go round but we need to ensure they’re reaching the right people and that is what the Baby Bank Network aims to do.”