2021 continued the theme of 2020 – a great mixture of high and lows. Whilst we have all adapted to different way of life that COVID-19 has placed on us all, what has remained constant is the incredible engagement of our community.
Since 1 January 2021, we have responded to requests on behalf of 8,532 families, reaching 10,905 children. In addition, our Santa Stork campaign helped 3,179 local families (through an astonishing 7,522 gift bags) this Christmas.
As we come to the year end, take a moment to reflect with us, on the key moments that have made 2021 another special year for Stripey Stork.
The Third COVID-19 Lockdown
In January the third lockdown began and once again we had to close our doors for donations. We were able to fulfil requests from our current stock however, as gaps arose, our team once again turned to purchasing items. The local community responded with incredible generosity, making purchases from our Amazon wish list, and we were also fortunate enough to receive grants which enabled us to remain well stocked on the key items our referral partners request when our pre-loved stock ran down.
As parents took to home-schooling once again, the team worked hard to ensure we could meet all the requests for home-schooling supplies and activity packs. Having the kids at home 24/7 came with its challenges for everyone, but when you don’t have the necessary resources or the funds to accommodate this new way of working it added a whole new level of stress. As well as including a variety of stationery items such as a pencil case, pencils, pens and a notepad, we also included some fun things to help keep the children entertained and stimulated, such as age-appropriate reading books, crafts, board games and puzzles. This meant everyone could get some light relief and families had the opportunity to play together once ‘school’ is finished for the day
11,000th referral request
In January Stripey Stork reached an important milestone – we received our 11,000th request for help since starting in 2013! It was for a local family who were really struggling financially due to their especially low income – a helping hand is all they needed. We prepared clothing packs for each of the children, full of winter clothes and suitable shoes which they’d never have been able to afford. We had very recently been able to help the same family with some different essential items which were identified and requested by their school. A wonderful example of how their support network is working together to ensure they have everything they need and that all bases are covered. It also demonstrates the crucial role Stripey Stork has to play in this process and how we have become the ‘go to’ place for sourcing items needed for the most vulnerable families in our community. A joined-up approach with the common goal of giving all children the same start in life.
Responding Quickly to the Change in Weather
Baby it’s cold outside, but not for this little man… these much-needed winter warmers were added to a referral already being picked up.
“Wondering if you can do a last-minute request, please!? I am seeing a client later today who has no cold weather clothing. M is on her way to you now to collect other items and I was wondering if there was any chance you could put together some items?”
By the afternoon he was warm and snug as he finally got to enjoy the snow. And enjoy he did, which is abundantly clear from this photo kindly sent by Mum.
“This is just what he needed, everything is perfect, it means so much, thank you!”
He was covered from head to toe in the outdoor items gifted to him from Stripey Stork and apparently the boots fit a treat. We were able to respond extremely quickly and because the items were clean and ready to use, he was able to put them on straight away and go outside like he’d been longing to do.
Half-Term in Lockdown
One of the local schools we regularly support was concerned how their vulnerable children, who had been in school up until then, were going to cope in February half term with the school being closed. #HolidayPoverty is a very real problem and they understand how challenging it is for parents to keep children entertained (especially during lockdown) when resources at home are lacking. We knew we could help. 182 bags were made up – full to the brim with reading books, activities, colouring stationery, Lego and a water bottle – covering Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
Mum2Mum – Mothering Sunday, 14th March 2021
“Us Mums need to stick together” said one of our supporters. This is what Mum2Mum is all about. A gift from one Mum to another, a gesture which speaks a million words, in the year that it’s been needed more than ever. Mother’s Day, the one day officially designated to celebrating all the amazing Mums out there. But sadly, this acknowledgement doesn’t happen for everyone. Circumstances don’t always allow; debt, a relationship breakup, Mums who’ve been on this journey alone from the beginning, those with little or no support network to help them through the bad times
“We had identified them as mainly single Mums who would be unlikely to get a gift at all, for example from an ex/new partner or from a teenage child, but also those whose families are on a very low income and struggle to put food on the table, so in other words with no means of buying a treat.” Elmbridge Family Centre
Thanks to our generous community, Stripey Stork was able to provide 835 Mother’s Day gift sets lovingly put together by our volunteers and distributed via our referral partners. This year was turning out to be disproportionately tough for many; financial worries were heightened with many losing their job, home-schooling had pushed parents to the limit and beyond, and feelings of isolation had never been greater. Those becoming Mums for the first time have had no baby groups to attend; to throw ideas around and be given the reassurance that they are doing okay. For Mums who were physically isolated, with no means for their support worker to deliver their gift bundle, Team Stork made sure that they weren’t forgotten. We sent 50 specially designed postal pamper boxes each containing handmade goodies and mini treats.
Mum2Mum2021 was the virtual hug they all needed and served as a reminder to take some all-important time out for themselves.
Easter Activity Bags
With lockdown having only recently ended, we knew many families would find the Easter holidays challenging. So, 226 Easter activity bags were being prepared, aimed at low-income families who often don’t have the necessary ‘boredom buster’ items at home to keep their children entertained. The bags were delivered to these families through five local schools and two academies.
“Thank you very much indeed for the amazing activity bags. The children were absolutely thrilled to receive such a thoughtful and generous gift to keep them busy during the holiday. It’s been a long and difficult term for many families in our school community and your kindness is greatly appreciated, it really has made a difference.”
Eid al-Fitr 2021
We had the pleasure of making up 45 of these packs for one of our referral partners – gifts to mark the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. Each pack contained brand new age-appropriate toys and books. And of course, we didn’t forget the parents, and treats were included for them too.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan fasting and is one of the most important celebrations in the Islamic calendar. It is traditionally celebrated by spending time together exchanging gifts and creating feelings of goodwill. It’s lovely that we’ve been able to participate in this sharing of goodwill, especially as the recipient families had been going through a particularly difficult time and being on the receiving end of such kindness will be all that more meaningful.
In June Stripey Stork were delighted to announce that HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux, appointed our CEO, Nicola Dawes, as a Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Surrey. In taking on this commission, Nicola joins a highly distinguished team of Deputies who assist and support the Lord-Lieutenant in his public duties as Her Majesty The Queen’s representative in the county of Surrey. Deputy Lieutenants (DL) come from all walks of life and are recognised for their contribution to the county within which they reside.
Karen Lord, Chair of Stripey Stork, said: “All of Team Stork are incredibly proud of Nicola’s appointment which highlights just how valued she is within the local voluntary sector. As Deputy Lieutenant, she can further strengthen our bond with the Surrey community and allow us to work towards our vision that every child in the county has access to the essential things they need to develop and meet their potential.”
Babies Born In Lockdown
At Stripey Stork we know that becoming a new parent is always a big change but beginning this journey during a pandemic without all the usual support systems in place, coupled with financial hardship, makes this challenge much greater. Then there’s the longer term developmental and social consequences for those babies born during these COVID-times. There’s a wealth of evidence to show how important the first 1,000 days are for a baby’s development.
We also knew it’s an area of real focus for our key referral partners and so wanted to respond with practical solutions that would help them with the visits they are making and the support groups that are starting to bring parents and families together. So, our Babies Born in Lockdown project began. We put together 592 packs for babies from birth, 6-12 months and 12 months plus. Each pack contained: A selection of age-appropriate books, a brand new developmental or sensory toy, a treat for Mum and all bundled together in one of our reusable orange/blue drawstring bags. All babies deserve the same start in life and being born during these unprecedented times should not have a negative impact on their development and wellbeing.
Father’s Day 2021
In the lead up to Father’s Day today, we gave out Father’s Day gift packs. We like to acknowledge them in this small but significant way, and it’s always well received. It’s also important for the children to have something to give Dad on their special day.
Stripes4Stripey – Thursday 17th June 2021 – stripes together again
On Thursday 17th June it was that time of year again, when Team Stork express their love of both Stripey Stork and stripes to mark Stripes4Stripey Day. This year we concentrated our efforts on building up our fund to buy new clothes needed to complement the pre-loved clothes we are donated. As the last year has proven, sometimes we need to act quickly to replace stock. Additionally, certain items, such as underwear, should be bought new and sometimes bulk purchase discounts present themselves which are just too good to miss.
Every year we try something a little different for Stripes4Stripey and this year was no exception – we injected a little stripey magic into our local park. With the help of 20 local businesses and organisations, also known as friends of Stripey Stork, we created a fun fairy door trail in Reigate’s Priory Park. Printed trail sheets were available and trail goers were invited to donate if they had the means.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we raised a total of £3,571.59.
Stripey Stork’s Team Expanded
Recognising that demand for our services was increasing, we made the operational changes necessary to ensure that we can continue to grow and expand. One of the key changes was to recruit an Operations Manager to ensure that all the work in our Reigate warehouse is well coordinated and in a position to cope with the growing demand. We were delighted to welcome Sara Beadle to Team Stork as our first Operations Manager!
Appreciation from the High Sheriff
The outgoing High Sheriff (Mr Shahid Azeem DL) recognised our contribution to the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic by awarding us with a certificate of appreciation. He visited us several times: once to help pack summer activity bags to help combat holiday poverty and again when we were knee deep in making up thousands of Christmas gift bundles for Santa Stork. It’s an honour that our work had such an impact on him that he wanted to acknowledge it in this way
Welcome for the Afghan Refugees
The end of Summer and our return to full operations at HQ came hurtling towards us at great speed. We had all been watching the news coverage of the situation in Afghanistan and knew that it would only be a matter of time before we received requests for assistance. Stripey Stork wanted to help however we could.
The first urgent appeal for aid for the Afghan children arriving in the UK came from the Red Cross via a fellow baby bank in London. The size and specific nature of the request was a challenge, but we knew that with the help of our local community, volunteers, and staff we would be able to fulfil the request. Within 48 hours of the initial request 100 completed packs were safely on their way to London.
The second request came from a referral partner supporting families in Gatwick hotels. Team Stork and our volunteers worked out of hours and on the weekend to fulfil the order, working together to make sure that the packs and items included everything that was requested plus a lot of love. The items were distributed by the referral partner, helping over 200 families with 500 children and babies.
Families told our partners that they had left Afghanistan with only the clothes they were wearing. Parents were asking for warm clothes for their children, shoes, and toiletries, so our pre-packed bags for all ages of children were easy to hand out. Children, even in difficult circumstances, were full of smiles when toys and bags were handed over.
Shortly after this a further request for 76 children in a Kingston hotel was received. Once again, the team mobilised and a van load of items containing clothes, toiletries and toys for every child was sent as well as a supply of sterilisers, nappies and equipment for the health teams to distribute as needed. We were told how one of the packs went to a mother that gave birth in Kabul Airport who had nothing for the baby or for herself. When she received one of our newborn packs and baby equipment, she broke down with tears of joy. We can’t begin to imagine what she has been though and are humbled that we can help.
We are continuing to respond to requests for families that are arriving and for those who are settling in homes and schools. We offer them all a warm Team Stork welcome.
Our long standing partner, Esure, once again ran their annual appeal for our Bags 4 School campaign over the summer. They generously donated 131 school bags and 15 boxes of supplies for Stripey Stork so we could send out brand new School bags filled with all the stationery and supplies the children needed to start school with a bang!
Run Reigate – Sunday 19th September 2021 – back as one!
On Sunday 19 September, Priory Park was the scene for Run Reigate. Now in its eighth year, and ‘back as one’ it was better than ever. It was also that little bit more ‘orange’ – with Stripey Stork as the Headline Charity our runners, volunteers and supporters came out in full force, showing everyone Team Stork at its best! The community came together to raise an incredible £16,186.74! We are so grateful to the 66 runners who ran for Stripey Stork.
Santa Stork 2021
No sooner have we caught our breath after Run Reigate, than plans for our biggest campaign of the year started to unfold. Christmas is a time of desperate need for many of the families we support and for the last seven years we’ve been there to make their Christmas wishes come true. Last year we provided new gifts (with stocking fillers) for 3,631 children and 1,537 adults. Organised by us, but in collaboration with the whole community, it’s an amazing project and one we are extremely proud of.
Unlike our regular donations, these gifts are new and, in some cases, will be the main or only present they’ll receive this Christmas. Our aim is to ensure we have enough funds to buy presents for every child and parent/carer referred to us this Christmas.
This year we have had a real challenge as the demand was greater than ever, with many more families already thrown into crisis because of the pandemic coupled with the end of the furlough scheme and the removal of the uplift in universal credit. We scaled-up to respond to 5,414 children and 2,108 parents/carers gift requests this year.
At the heart of our 2021 Santa Stork campaign are three values: Choice, Dignity & Care.
Choice: Choice is a core part of the Santa Stork campaign and ensuring that the child will receive something they will love. We believe that the gifts should reflect the interests and wishes of the child and not just be whatever has been donated. We spend time curating our list with Toy Barnhaus and we canvas the opinion of the children and teenagers we know to determine what is popular right now.
Dignity: we pass on a roll of wrapping paper and tape with each set of presents for the family so that the parents or carers can wrap the presents themselves. The feedback we receive is that the parents enjoy seeing the gifts and feeling part of the process.
Care: it is important the parents and carers are not missed out, and that the children get to see them recognised with a gift too. We wrap up a toiletry gift set so that they have a little surprise, and these are passed on with the family’s requests.
More details can be found in our Santa Stork blog here.
If 2020 was the year that changed the world, 2021 was the year the economic impact landed. Team Stork has only been able to rise to meet the need because of our incredible community of supporters. Thank you for enabling us to support all those in need of a helping hand.