West Berkshire Community Baby Bank helping families in lockdown
'When lockdown came, we were a lifeline for many shielding and vulnerable families in particular'
A YEAR ago, Kayleigh Powell noticed the rise in posts on social media from parents locally asking ‘How do I give these things to families who need them?’.
That process was difficult as support services have little resource to store, sort and distribute it all.
She knew about First Days Aid based in Reading, but was not aware of an equivalent in West Berkshire.
Kayleigh says: “I had noticed a need in the community and started collecting items for various official organisations, to see what would be helpful.”
She started storing items in her garage in Newbury and put a shout out to anybody who had used good-condition children’s clothes and other items that they could donate, responding to professional asks.
One year on and the West Berkshire Community Baby Bank is now a registered charity, has storage space at Greenham Business Park, alongside West Berkshire Foodbank, and has helped nearly 500 families.
“When lockdown came, we were a lifeline for many shielding and vulnerable families in particular.
“We supplied nappies and other essentials to professionals supporting families.
“It was manic to start with because of the stress and strain some people were under.
“Because of the panic buying, some mothers were desperate to just get nappies for their babies.”
One of the downsides during lockdown was space to store everything.
“We had to hang on to stuff for 72 hours before we could pass it on – anything second-hand had to be quarantined, which meant our garage was bursting at the seams.”
Everyday items such as mattress protectors and travel cots – for women with babies who had to be moved to safety – were all in demand.
“In response, a wishlist on Amazon was set up.
“The response from the local community has been fantastic, but because of what’s happened this year there is an even greater need for our support and supplies.”
Kayleigh recalls one young mother she delivered items to: “She was a single mum in a one-bedroom flat, too afraid to leave it for fear of catching Covid. and she had not been out for 13 weeks.
“It was so heartbreaking to hear.”
The West Berkshire Community Baby Bank now has more than 1,700 followers on its Facebook page and whenever Kayleigh puts out a special appeal, the community lovingly responds.
“I put posts up saying I need specific sized wellies or certain age vests and socks and immediately people fill the void.”
Did Kayleigh have any idea when she started filling up her garage with a few items to pass on that her organisation would become such a needed resource?
“I never imagined we would be dealing with the number of families we have helped this year.
“Would it have been better without Covid? Probably, but there is still a great need out there and it’s easy for people to fall through the cracks.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has of course created other issues, not least the effect on mental health.
“And it’s never been more important to signpost people to support.”
With Christmas on the horizon, Kayleigh is very aware of the hardship many people will go through.
“It’s going to be bleak for many families and if we can give them something to smile about in any small way that’s got to be a good thing.
“We must work with professionals to listen to what families really need this winter.
“One way we are doing that is with our ‘Warm No Matter What Campaign’ to help families have access to the warm essentials they need to get through the colder, wetter weather – wellies, coats, pants and socks.
“If you are a family who needs help with the essentials, please contact your nearest professional – Home-Start, family hubs or health visitors – The West Berkshire Community Baby Bank works only by referral.”
To donate, visit West Berkshire Community Baby Bank’s Facebook page, or visit http://westberkshirecommunitybabybank.org.uk and they can be found on the Good Exchange.
Family Hubs:Central – ThatchamT (01635) 865318E email@example.com
West – NewburyT (01635) 31143E firstname.lastname@example.org
East – CalcotT (0118) 945 6157E email@example.com