This month, we’ve been talking to one of our funded groups, the Leeds Baby Bank. Providing a unique service to those who are pregnant, or have young children, this recently founded charity is a lifeline for many families struggling financially.
The Baby Bank was only initiated in January 2017 by founders Chantal Nogbou and Lynsey Jayes, but with support from the local community, and having receiving grants from LCF’s Jimbo’s Fund and Comic Relief Community Cash Fund, the team has gone from strength to strength.
We catch up with Leeds Baby Bank trustee, Faye Freeman, about the need in Leeds, their future plans and how funding from LCF has supported the project.
Tell us a little more about the project and what you do
Leeds Baby Bank offers urgent support to expectant parents and families with children aged between 0-4 years who are struggling financially to meet their needs in the short term. This may be due to domestic violence, immigration, benefit cuts or sanctions, illness or disability – there are so many reasons we receive referrals that it would be impossible to list them all, but most of the referrals we receive are for service users who are vulnerable and have no recourse to public funding.
We offer everything one might need for a child within the catchment age group, from food, sanitary products and nappies, to pushchairs, cots and feeding equipment. Each referral is assessed individually by the referrer (social services, midwives, health visitors and so on) and the items requested are matched to that person’s immediate need.
Our aim is to provide the items that the food banks often don’t have, or have very limited supplies of. We aim to be not a long-term support, but a safety net for those in crisis or who are awaiting applications, who have been sanctioned or are unable to apply for public funding.
Why did you set up Leeds Baby Bank; what need is there in the city?
Leeds Baby Bank was set up in January 2017 when the co-founders, Chantal Nogbou & Lynsey Jayes, identified there was a gap in the support offered to families with younger children when they were using food banks across the city. The demand for food banks in Leeds is dramatically increasing and further support is needed.
Food banks are a lifeline to those using them, but for families with young children, it’s not just food items they struggle to provide for their children, but essentials such as nappies, toiletries, clothing and equipment.
Leeds Baby Bank is run solely by volunteers and has grown hugely in such a short time. We currently have two further trustees, Faye Freeman and Emma Cosgrove, who have helped develop and manage the charity and its day-to-day running. We have 9 dedicated volunteers and drivers, and are lucky enough to have the help of local companies on their team building days, as well as work experience college students from time to time.
How has Leeds Community Foundation supported the project; what difference has this made?
Leeds Community Foundation has been our biggest financial supporter to date, and without Jimbo’s Fund, we would not have been able to take on our first premises to store all our donations.
Knowing we have most of the first year’s rent covered has lifted a financial burden off the founders and trustees. Not having to fundraise to cover our rent in the first few months of setting up this new charity has allowed us to move forward with other projects and focus on getting referrals out quickly.
Thanks to our Comic Relief Community Cash grant, we now have a successful volunteer program. Our fabulous team of volunteers from across the city come to our unit, sort through donations and deliver emergency referrals to families in Leeds.
Leeds Community Foundation have really helped us secure a future for this fast-growing charity and we cannot thank them enough.
What difference do you think Leeds Baby Bank has made; do you have a particular story you could tell?
Our charity has had a positive impact on all the families we have helped and we are very proud of the support we have provided to families across Leeds. The feedback we have received from families and referrers has been extremely encouraging.
Here’s an example of the support we provided a family with: we received a message from a desperate mother who had fled domestic violence. She was living in a safe house and had nothing for her children, apart from a small bag of clothes. We advised her how to be referred to us and, once we received the referral, our army of volunteers sorted it out and we swiftly delivered 2 full cars of donations. The family were very thankful and sent us this message.
“Thank you so, so much for all the stuff. My daughter is delighted with the clothes – she’s been doing a fashion show and is so happy. My baby is settled in the new crib and I’m putting all the stuff away. I really can’t thank you enough – I’m overwhelmed x”
What are your future plans for Leeds Baby Bank; what would you like to see happen?
The demand for our service is growing rapidly and we are looking forward to the future. We will be holding our first AGM in the autumn and looking at registering with the Charity Commission. We are busy expanding our volunteer program and setting up pre-and post-natal support groups, but moving forward we are looking for ways to support other children in Leeds and we have some exciting projects in the pipeline. We are extremely limited with regard to storage space and are looking at ways to expand our charity and get additional space.
Leeds Baby Bank are holding a masquerade ball at the Queens Hotel on Friday the 20th of October to raise much needed funds for the charity. Tickets can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org