A Facebook group started by a local mum that allows people to make unwanted items available free of charge to families in need has grown its membership to more than 5,000 in less than two years.
The Mama’s Swaps & Freebies Bristol group was launched 18 months ago by Patchway resident Paige Josham with the intention of allowing a small group of her friends to give away or swap items such as clothing, toys and pushchairs.
Members of the group can advertise unwanted items which they are happy to give away for free. The items generally need to be collected, but in some cases (e.g. where the recipient is in great need and has no transport) the person offering or another group member may be able to deliver locally without charge, or for the cost of fuel only.
Attracting members from across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, the group soon became so popular that Paige found it necessary to bring in a team of friends and acquaintances to help run the group and she has been joined in the task by Kelsey Lee Booy, Amy Jane Bland and Daisy Louise Till.
The ethos of the group is that it exists to help anyone, regardless of background or situation, as Kelsey explained:
“We have gone on to help the homeless, parents in emergency refuge or fleeing domestic violence, single parents and working class families, as well as families that could be perceived as ‘comfortable’”
One member, Natalia, when asked about the group said:
“Babies grow so quickly and need so many things for such a short time. This group reduces the amount of plastic and clothing ending up in landfills! I have had perfect condition toys and clothing from the wonderful ladies here that would otherwise have gone in the rubbish, whilst I would have bought them new and then added my lot to the dump, too. I also love knowing that things I’m done with will be loved by others, whilst not having the guilt that they’ll be thrown out straight away. This group helps us protect the environment for our little ones, whilst growing and strengthening our local community.”
An example of an emergency situation in which the group was able to offer assistance was when an urgent plea for help came in from a woman who had been given the care of a 5-week-old baby girl whose mother had been taken to hospital after a domestic violence case. The child had nothing but the clothes on her back and a few spare nappies to see her through the night. Paige was able to post an urgent request and get hold of the bare necessities that the baby would need to see her through the next few days until the child could go back into the mother’s care.
Earlier this year, Paige was nominated for a Stars of the Stokes award by members of the group (by then numbering 2,700). At the presentation evening, it was revealed that Paige had received more than 70 individual nominations, the highest in the four years history of the Stars of the Stokes awards programme.
With the admin team at Paige’s side, she was honoured to be named as winner of the Unsung Hero category, receiving her award from event host Paul Sinha, star of ITV’s The Chase.
In June, the group staged its first so-called #Live event. This involved the admin team collecting and storing donated items for an entire month and then bringing them to a local venue. Hundreds of people attended the event to collect items they needed for their little ones and £500 was raised for Bristol-based charity The Baby Bank through a raffle, refreshments and optional donations for items collected.
Soon to be a properly constituted organisation, with the support of Southern Brooks Community Partnerships, the group plans to organise further #Live events as well as coffee mornings and play dates to link families who share similar trials such as post-natal depression, anxieties and children with special needs.
“Please make the effort to find us on Facebook under Mama’s Swaps & Freebies Bristol, where you can find out what the team are doing next, contribute items to families in need and help grow our community even further!”
Photos: 1 Group founder Paige Josham (centre) with other admin team members at the 2019 Stars of the Stokes awards. 2 Donated items piled high at a #Live sale organised by the group.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 12 & 13). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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