First Growbaby starts in Kingston
In 2003, Peter and Noni Farrelly started the first Growbaby in the United Kingdom, with one simple aim: to support local families in need, regardless of income, faith or background. This centred on the perception of need from the community, rather than a personal one, and its starting point was the provision of free baby clothing and equipment.
As demand for children’s clothing and equipment, and the reputation of the charity, grew, so did the need for other services. It became apparent that many young families, in particular, were looking for guidance in everything from how to look after their child, to budgeting and language acquisition. By 2019, Growbaby was running a huge range of classes, including: breast feeding clinics; skills for life; antenatal classes for young and vulnerable parents of children born in Kingston hospital; English as another language; and a variety of young baby and toddler groups. At Christmas, the charity partners with Epsom College, the Metropolitan Police and the Nationwide building society to provide gifts for children, who have been nominated by local agencies, and provides Christmas presents. In 2019, it provided 2,117 gifts with a value of £64,000.
The Hub (the place Growbaby Kingston calls home) has also proved invaluable in trialling new outreach programmes. In 2018, a volunteer at Growbaby, who is an Occupational Therapist working with children with special needs, developed a parenting course centred on supporting children with sensory processing and attachment disorders. This proved to be such a popular and innovative course that it received the first externally funded grant in Growbaby’s history; the course now continues to grow and develop, thanks to a contribution from Love Kingston. Up until this point, all funding had come internally through Kingston Vineyard.
Growbaby Kingston is now fully embedded in the local community and is trusted not only by the people it serves, but by a number of agencies. Local organisations recognise the important position that Growbaby holds within the community and uses the charity to gain access to the most vulnerable individuals. Growbaby currently works with: the women’s refuges, children’s services, the police, the local council and those involved in providing post-natal support, such as the midwifery teams and health visitors.
Since its inception, Growbaby Kingston estimates that it has had over 25,000 contacts with local families, some of which have been one off and some of which have been regular and ongoing. If the value of donations made was calculated, the value would run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. In 2019 alone, the value of volunteers’ hours for that 12-month period was estimated to be worth £94,947.50.
In 2016 Kingston Vineyard and Growbaby won the Kingston Business award for the “Commitment to the Community”. In 2019 they were shortlisted for the Social prescribing awards in the category of “Best local Project” and in the same year they won the Faith and Belief forum award for best project in the category of “Health and wellbeing”.