As we approach the end of the year, we like to reflect on the impact we’ve made, as well as some of the challenges we’ve faced along the way.
It seemed like we’d just started finding our way again after being pushed to the limit during the pandemic, only to be hit with the cost-of-living crisis we currently find ourselves in. Stripey Stork is again seeing first-hand the consequences of this national crisis; with the worst off and the most vulnerable being the hardest hit. Many of the families we support are having to make unthinkable choices between food, heating and nappies, and the stories we are hearing are harrowing. The need for our service has never been greater, but the operational challenges we face are also mounting; running costs are rising, items we buy new now cost more, and the funding climate is more challenging than ever.
But, we have never been more determined as we head into 2023. Team Stork will rise to this new challenge, because every year we get stronger and if 2022 is anything to go by, then together we’ve got this!
- We’ve helped 9,311 families* with the essential baby and children’s items they need. This number is made up of referrals made on behalf of specific families (3,615) and items collected/delivered in bulk by other baby banks and supporting organisations (5,696).
- We’ve worked with 316 referral organisations.
*This figure doesn’t include the reach of our seasonal campaigns, such as Mother’s Day and Christmas – more on their impact below.
When Veronika stole our hearts
In April we prepared ourselves to respond as hundreds of Ukrainian refugees started arriving in Surrey to live with their host families. We were warned that 90% would be women with children who had fled with nothing but the bare essentials. Many of you got in touch to ask how you could help and donate items from our wishlist, as well as donate to our appeal to enable us to buy things needed to complement our pre-loved items.
A local host family got in touch to say that they were expecting a Mum and her 2-year-old daughter, Veronika. When the family safely arrived, they all came to the warehouse to collect the large bundle of items we’d prepared. It was then that young Veronika stole our hearts. She had left her favourite doll behind, so imagine her little face when she spotted the very same doll on our shelves.
It was a special moment indeed. It was even picked up by national news outlets and Stripey made it onto TV. Because of our quick response and your generosity, we were able to open our warehouse doors to many more Ukrainian families settling in the area and continued to help them as they settled into the community and started school or nursery.
Cost-of-living crisis response
Throughout 2022, as family finances became more challenging and the energy price rise loomed on the horizon, we have planned our response to these new and greater hardships faced by Surrey families, knowing the requests for help were only going to keep coming. We have focused on essential items to support the most vulnerable families, providing for safety, warmth, and mental health. We’ve worked with our partners who work with families, attending cost-of-living events to hear directly from the community about the difficulties they are experiencing. We then put together these cost-of-living resources to help referral partners and families navigate other types of assistance available to them.
In the summer we launched our first ever Teen Care Packs, which, in partnership with The Lucy Rayner Foundation, offered teens practical and mindful self-care items to stay physically and mentally well, be active and express their emotions, and clear signposting to support services.
Thanks to the generous support of our community, and the hard work of our team and volunteers, we have kept pace with the rising demand for support, but we can only continue to do this with your help.
The next generation
One of our goals this year was to involve more young people in our cause. We’ve worked with and presented to many schools before and it’s always encouraging to see how receptive these young audiences are to supporting the Stork. At the same time, we’re seeing an increasing number of requests for older children (11-16 years) and wanted to improve our offering for this age group. We knew that by involving teenagers at the warehouse, we’d benefit from understanding this age group better.
A great way to develop this further was to launch a Duke of Edinburgh volunteering scheme. The Duke of Edinburgh values – inclusive, rewarding, supportive – closely align with our own. Following two information sessions held at the warehouse in September, we signed up 30 students for after school placements for Bronze, Silver and Gold students. It’s proved an absolute hit and we currently have a waiting list. Not only have students been able to give their time and learn new skills, but they have also had the chance to hear from referral partners from I Choose Freedom and Home-Start.
Typical tasks include sorting clothing, making up activity packs, hygiene packs and school bags, checking and cleaning equipment such as highchairs and travel cots to make sure all donated items are ready to go out, as well as helping with seasonal campaigns.
As hoped, the students are providing invaluable insight into what makes teenagers tick. They have overhauled our teenage clothing packs, and meticulously check through all donated clothes in teen sizes, checking not just for quality but for wearability – asking themselves “would I, or my friends, wear this?”. They have had input into Teen Care Packs, designed to alleviate isolation and improve mental health, and put together activity packs for teenage refugees in temporary accommodation. They have taken on our attention to detail and the sense of quality we like to give.
The feedback from the young volunteers has been positive. They describe the experience as “caring” “communal” and “rewarding”. Many of them report that being in the warehouse has deepened their understanding of our service (“I previously thought it was just clothes, but have learned they actually supply many different items, like buggies”) and the need for it (“I learned just how many families are needing help at the moment”).
Enquiries about Duke of Edinburgh volunteering should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve also been further developing our partnership with Reigate Grammar School. Every half term their Fourth Form students elect to volunteer with a local charity, and we’ve been lucky enough to have a steady flow of students volunteer with us weekly.
Growing Team Stork
Another strategic goal is to make our workplace as diverse and inclusive as possible, where everyone feels valued and people from all backgrounds can work together effectively.
We’ve been delighted to build on our relationship with Surrey Choices who provide a range of support services to improve the independence, confidence and life skills of people with a range of disabilities and support needs in our local community. We’ve been working with them to match some of their young people to placements with us for work experience and regular volunteering. You can read about the experiences of two Stripey Stork volunteers’ success stories in the Surrey Choices blog; Michelle’s progress to employment and Edward who supported our Mother’s Day campaign and completed Run Reigate – see Stripey Stork campaigns.
Together with Surrey Choices colleagues we design placements and feedback mechanisms that support the young people in developing the skills and confidence they need. It’s been amazing to watch them grow and so rewarding to know that Stripey Stork has contributed to their progress. We were honoured to win one of Surrey Choices’ ‘Working in Partnership with Employers’ Awards in May. Here’s Sara Beadle, our Operations Manager, expressing her pride on what it means to be presented with such an award…
And that’s not the only award we picked up this year! We had a strong start when back in March we scooped The Charity and Social Enterprise Award at the Reigate & Banstead Business Awards. This new category recognises charitable local organisations focused on benefiting local people and the area. We were grateful to be nominated alongside some great contenders.
Spreading our wings
The pandemic highlighted the growing social deprivation in pockets of Surrey, and the significant need for our services in areas we don’t currently reach. We were also aware that by linking up with other baby banks and similar organisations doing work like us in Surrey, Sussex and London we could all benefit from working together and sharing resources, which will ultimately help even more families.
In May we started piloting a new delivery service, which is being run alongside preparing our usual referrals for collection. We began by making regular deliveries to a small number of organisations, supporting them with stock they could distribute to families in their networks. This allowed us to reach families in new areas. We later developed three ‘hub’ locations in Epsom, Esher and Caterham, so referral partners in areas further away from Reigate could collect from somewhere nearer to them, saving them valuable time in their working day. Since May we have delivered 462 referrals to the benefit of over 1,500 families. Referrals from these areas have increased since this service became available.
Having the capacity to deliver also allowed us to respond quickly to our largest ever school bag request in June 2022.
We’ll be working to build on these partnerships in the coming year so we can make our services and stock available to every family that need us across the county and surrounding areas.
The kindness in ‘in-kind’
We wouldn’t be able to help nearly as many families as we do without the generous amount of in-kind donations we receive each year from a number of businesses that put their excess, discontinued or imperfect stock to the best use. In 2022 (up to 31st October 2022) we estimate that we’ve received goods with a value of £223,300 which we’ve been able to put back into the community. We’d like to thank every single business, big or small, that’s contributed in this way. Donations received include clothing, toiletries, buggies and toys.
For example, earlier in the year we were contacted by Bugaboo who’d heard about our work and wanted to make a product donation. We were thrilled to accept 39 brand new Bugaboo Donkey pushchairs from them. We were already familiar with this specific type of pram system because they have a handy luggage basket alongside the seat which has proven valuable for children who have complex medical needs and therefore essential equipment to transport.
This is the case for 10 month old J (age at the time) who has a rare genetic lung condition. We were pleased to be able to gift one of these donated, and otherwise unaffordable, buggies to his family. His oxygen tank can fit neatly into the compartment, and the family have the freedom to be out and about.
Keen to see other families in similar circumstances benefit from this kindness, we reached out to the other baby banks in our local network to take their orders. This story is a great example of partnerships in practice.
The campaigns that keep on giving
Every year it seems like we’ve just hung up our Christmas hats when planning starts for Mother’s Day. This year was no exception and the community effort saw us give out 596 Mum2Mum gift sets. We like to include a card handwritten by one of our volunteers and it was extra special this year when the design was by the winner of a competition we held at Reigate Grammar School.
Next up was Stripes4Stripey, when on 23rd June we asked everyone to wear stripes and donate or fundraise for us. So many of you got involved and the result was £2,937 raised to buy new items of clothing to make up missing items in pre-loved clothes packs all year round.
September sees our annual and biggest fundraiser, Run Reigate. An amazing £6,890 was raised between 53 of our orange Team Stork runners.
And then there’s Santa Stork 2022. We have so much to say about this and we’ve just about finished telling this year’s story. Read all about Santa Stork 2022 here. Needless to say, it will be full of gratitude and stories of how our fabulous community has come together once again to deliver Christmas; when times were especially tough and the need was at its greatest.
Thank you for enabling us to continuously support those in need with a helping hand; in such a changing landscape and in the face of adversity, once again! Looking at everything we’ve achieved together this year, we’re feeling ready for 2023!