In 2003 Peter and Noni Farrelly started Growbaby. Its aim was simple, to support local families in need, regardless of income, faith or background dependent on the perception of need from the community rather than our own view. Our starting point was the provision of free baby clothing and equipment.
In the early days’ items were taken to people’s homes but this quickly became unsustainable so in 2011 Growbaby had rented old shop premises in Kingston and opened as a community space called the Hub.
By 2020 a huge number of projects were run out of the space, these include a breast feeding drop in, a “skills for life” group for young parents, all antenatal classes for young parents giving birth in Kingston hospital, the continued provision of clothing and equipment, English classes and parenting classes.
Growbaby is fully embedded in the local community and works with multiple agencies such as the women’s refuges, children’s services, the police, the local council, the midwives and health visitors to name but a few. At Christmas it partners with Epsom College, the Met Police and the Nationwide building society to provide gifts for children in need who have been nominated by local agencies. In 2019 it provided 2,117 gifts with a value of £64,000.
In 2016 Kingston Vineyard and Growbaby won the Kingston Business award for the “Commitment to the Community”. In 2019 we were shortlisted for the Social prescribing awards in the category of “Best local Project” and in the same year we won the Faith and Belief forum award for best project in the category of “Health and wellbeing”.
When Covid19 sent the UK into lockdown Growbaby was able to respond within a matter of days and we become the distribution point for formula, nappies and baby food for families in the Borough of Kingston and Richmond. This was for families who self-referred or were referred through a number of different agencies. This is a significant change for us. Since we went into lockdown, we have made over 419 deliveries made up of 2,476 jars/pouches of baby food, 239 packs of wipes, 453 packs of nappies, 167 tins/cartons of formula and 113“normal” Growbaby items, including cots, pushchairs and clothes. In line with Government guidance we aim to continue this delivery service after 15th June for those who are on the shielding program, pregnant or who are in financial difficulties because of Covid. We will open the Hub for appointments but would like to continue to provide formula, food and nappies through a voucher system (similar to foodbank) which can be given to families by social workers, health care professionals and other agencies.
Under normal circumstances Growbaby funds everything it does and we have not saught outside funding, but the purchase of these items is extremely expensive and that is why we are asking for your help to continue this outstanding service.
We normally have two occasional part time self-employed staff who do the odd hours when they can help and multiple volunteers but at present the organisation and management is currently an almost full-time job. We are also attempting to continue to support our existing cohort of families in any way we can, this includes a zoom group for our vulnerable young parents, which supported housing and health visitor attend and we are due to start online antenatal classes in the next few weeks for our young pregnant parents.
We have also identified a significant number of families applying for baby food for children who should be weaned. We believe this is caused by multiple factors including financial hardship as well as continued shortages and long waits at supermarkets and so baby food is an easy option. We have purchased a number of baby food blenders and we have worked with the health visitors to create a weaning pack to go out with the blenders to parents with children between 5 – 7 months to reduce dependence on costly baby food (we are already trialling this with 15 families).