Practical start-up information
Here are some practical lessons we learnt when we started Growbaby, wish we had known them at the start!!!
Get good boxes. We now use “Really Useful boxes” 84 litre for toys and kit and 64/50 litres for clothes. Well worth the investment in the end!
Label boxes on the inside with an A4 sheet of laminated paper. That way they stay upright inside box but can be easily changed if needed.
When you come to sort clothes we simply put out on the floor/table some laminated age lists and simply put girls on one side of the sheet and boys on the other, this makes it easier and quicker.
Buy a good set of screw drivers for taking apart cots, pushchairs etc for cleaning.
If cots or stairgates come in without bolts you can get extra bolts on ebay. However, the extra bolts for the stairgates are nearly the same price as a new gate. We keep an eye on the cost of gates; the cheapest are usually Asda or Argos. Then we can give mum’s information about where to buy gates if we don’t have them.
We found a local bike shop that will sort out pushchair tyres and has the inners. He charges only £5 a tyre and it has saved many a good pushchair!
Keep a set of Allan keys (useful for all sorts of things!).
Be ruthless with chucking stuff that isn’t good, the good will come! Send the scruffy things to recycling or charity. If you wouldn’t give it to your best friend, why would you give it to a Growbaby family. A very helpful line when people bring in their rubbish!
We use a simple Kardex system for keeping information we record, we find this is quick, alphabetical and cheap: (at the start we did produce a form – we just found this took up too much space, cost with printing etc)
Children’s names and ages (DOB)
Date of visit
If we have social workers or the police or families from the Domestic Violence refuges who are coming to get stuff for themselves (not clients) we do not take their address or phone number, we simply mark the corner of the card with SW, DV, POL so that we know why we have not taken details.
We make our lists of what is needed for a family before we go to collect the items with them, this seems to work better. We have a new baby list that we can go through with them if they wish. Now we have so much stuff they can take whatever they like but when we started, we allowed them 3 full sets of clothes and then whatever else they need. This allows all our families to access stuff, and we do tell them they can always come back.
We do not recommend a cot until the baby is 4 months plus but it is up to the family, equally we do not recommend second hand mattress’s but if the families are desperate and have no money then we will give them one. They should be checked over and the covers washed if possible before distributing.
We only have one hanging rail; this is where all our dresses go.
We bought a couple of really cheap Ikea chest of drawers and store our sheets in one and tights, socks and mittens in the other. This has saved us so much space (and money).
We do not put anything away unless it has been cleaned first; if that is needed.
Many of our families will ask us advice about co-sleeping, weaning, feeding etc. It’s worth asking your health visitors for some leaflets and keeping up to date on the latest NHS guidelines.
We do not keep a “wanted” list and then phone people, I did in the beginning but I don’t have time. I just say to people to keep calling and see if the thing they want has come in or pop in on the days we are open.
I don’t keep things for people to collect another day. Too much stuff was being held back and not collected and other families needed it. I will hold something only for the day when we are open in case they need to get help with transport. The only exception to this is an emergency call from social services, the domestic violence refuge or the hospital.
We only open for collections or deliveries on a Growbaby day (The only exception to this is an emergency call from social services, the domestic violence refuge or the hospital) we are just too busy to open for odd items on other days and we have other events going on in the Hub and so it wouldn’t work for us.
Because we give out things for free there is no need to PAT test monitors or sterilisers etc.
We do give out car seats, we check when they were donated that they have not been in an accident and we do tell families it’s their own choice to use them. Again, because they are free its fine. We have checked this with our insurance but they inform us that as long as they remain free they are happy for us to continue doing this. We did consider a disclaimer but our lawyers told us that it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on so we simply make sure people remember they are second hand. Just make sure you check they are compliant with current guidelines: https://www.childcarseats.org.uk/types-of-seat/ https://www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules
If we are doing any filming of photos in Growbaby we make sure the Photo consent is completed, many of our families are fleeing domestic violence and we have to be very careful!