As a busy working mum well versed in the demands and costs of childcare, Rosa Bolger had one thought when the UK went into lockdown in spring 2020: how will families cope if they can’t access vital supplies for themselves and the children?
In April 2020 she provided the answer. She set up the Witney Baby Bank, with an aim to support families across West Oxfordshire by providing them with essential baby items and menstrual products, free of charge.
“When we set up the Baby Bank we thought it might be a temporary and emergency measure to help families through the initial lockdown,” explains Rosa, “but it became very clear now that this issue is not going away any time soon.”
Three years on and the Baby Bank is now a registered charity with a board of trustees and 12 volunteers who deliver regularly to service users. They continue to provide a vital lifeline to hundreds of families across the district and the Parish Council is thrilled to be able to financially support this impressive, important work via a grant in 2023.
Support is so critical because Witney Baby Bank is run by volunteers and relies on grants from local councils, donations of essential supplies (nappies, wipes, formula and menstrual products) from the public and from their close working partnership with Witney and West Oxfordshire Food Bank.
Over 2022, more than 250 deliveries were made to families in West Oxfordshire, with over 14,000 nappies supplied and enough formula to fill over 6,000 bottles for hungry babies.
Additionally, the Baby Bank organises an annual Christmas Gift Appeal. The army of volunteers collects, wraps and delivers (generously donated) presents to children from newly born up to aged 18. In 2022, working with 22 schools and nurseries, the Baby Bank put smiles on the faces of more than 600 children and young people who may not have otherwise received a gift at Christmas.
The figures are incredible, as is the woman who founded and continues to lead this important charity. Rosa has two children of her own and works for a ‘tech for good’ company as Head of Growth. She started her career in TV before transitioning into the local government/policy and digital space. She previously served as a District Councillor and was on the Town Council in Witney as the first woman leader.
Rosa stresses that she is very well supported by the many people who work alongside her at the Baby Bank and gets pleasure, if also some sadness, from the work they do, not least because the need for support remains so high:
“The cost of living crisis has put additional stress on families already living on the edge and there needs to be more national support,” she says. “It is so heart-warming to see so many volunteers and organisations coming forward, offering their time and generous donations, and as long as this generosity continues and the need exists, we will continue to provide. However, we are keen to see a future where we no longer need to exist.”
If any of our residents feel able to provide support to Witney Baby Bank, there are various means of doing so. The charity welcomes donations from local business or volunteers who can deliver donations around the local area.
For more information on how you could support or make use of the support offered by Witney Baby Bank, there are more details available on their Facebook page or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.