An exciting new chapter as a charity for VFTS

By Kimberly Preston-Bond – CEO & Founder of Visit from the Stork

Wednesday was one of my favourite days at work so far this year. We had a special music class by Little Music Stars to celebrate our first year of doing Stay and Play – and one of the final songs was ‘the Hokey-Cokey’ which happens to be one of my favourite songs of all time, helped by fun childhood memories of parties and school discos. I watched as we all took part – 15+ adults and their children, some less than 6 months old. There was a moment that was just pure joy, the immediacy of us all coming together for the music, that sums up what we do and why we do it. We created so much impact, some great memories, a moment that all the parents will remember as being able to dance and bond with their children. 

Our Hokey-Cokey dance on Wednesday 15th November 2023

Thinking about yesterday got me thinking about some of my favourite memories and moments of impact from the last few years. We’ve spent the last 8 years working in the Salford and Manchester communities, doing some really great place-based work in Ordsall, Longsight, Little Hulton, Harpurhey, Gorton and Langworthy. 

In the summer of 2016 we worked with Ordsall Community Cafe (now called The Tatton) on creating the Ordsall Olympics – a wonderful day of sports possibly never seen before on the estate, where the families took part in Zumba, wall climbing, rowing, sumo wrestling, basketball and even making their own fruit smoothie by cycling.

Our Ordsall Olympics climbing wall, September 2016

In 2017, for International Women’s Day, we worked with Dance Like a Mother to fill a sports hall full of women; mums, babies and women-led businesses to support, empower and lift each other up.

And in April 2019, we joined up with the GM Sling Library (now The GM Parenting Collective) at their sessions and provided breastfeeding support for the very first time – and I got to hold a tiny baby (who is now 4!) whilst Kerry talked to her mum about how to solve potential issues. We’ve supported nearly 1,000 women on their breastfeeding journey since then. 

Our Women in Bloom event for International Women’s Day 2017, in partnership with Dance Like A Mother

All these experiences were of course pre-pandemic and most of the current staff and volunteer team were not there with me to be part of it, in fact most of them probably don’t even know about all the things we’ve created, taken part in, tried over the years we’ve been in business because there’s so many!

Visit from the Stork was created nearly 10 years ago to be a space where parents could be free from judgement, free from outside influences and talk to us about anything they need to. Our vision has always been to make sure every parent has the tools they need to achieve the best quality of life for themselves and their children. My aim was to be a support network for parents who had no-one, who were isolated for whatever reason, who needed practical and emotional support throughout their parenthood journey. After my best friend had her first child at age 18, it became clear there was a major gap for the sort of organisation that gives answers first without asking too many questions, supports with the care of a friend but the knowledge of a professional and doesn’t limit the time taken to do so. I am proud to have created this for her and for the many, many parents and children we have worked with since. 

Since 2020, our ethos has taken on a whole new meaning; with all of us isolated, we unearthed a need created by years of deprivation and austerity in the communities across Greater Manchester. 

We spent 2020 responding to the emergency by delivering over 2,000 parcels of baby essentials to families in hardship and crisis – and this service – lovingly known as Stork Support – has continued over the last 3 years and doesn’t show any signs of not being needed any time soon. The beauty of being a small, non-profit organisation that we have been able to adapt to the needs of the families we are helping at a moment’s notice and take risks that big companies didn’t dare do. We were one of the first organisations to create a peer support group after lockdown and facilitate creating a community of 12 mums from different backgrounds coming together over shared experiences in a church in the middle of Longsight – this is now our longest running peer support group.

One of the things I’ve come to realise is that our mission of being a judgement free space and helping parents to achieve their goals can come from simply creating great environments where they feel comfortable, welcomed and safe to be themselves. When we create good environments, we see great things happening; parents talk through their issues, they feel safe enough to ask for help, their children thrive through having all of their needs met, friendships and connections are made and mental health is improved. 

Yesterday – and the many many great moments we’ve helped create before this – was simply a product of this knowledge.

We don’t do it for money, we don’t do it to tick a box or because we have funding from someone, we do it because those moments can literally change people’s lives. 

Being a CIC has allowed us to grow, allowed us to try new things, adapt easily to the stresses of the pandemic and change up what we do according to the needs of our families. But over the last year, which has been challenging for everyone, we have been supporting more and more vulnerable families in more and more complex situations – parents fleeing DV, living in temporary accommodation, seeking asylum or with no access to benefits and more and more families getting into debt over the cost of living. 

Upon reflection with the team about our values and the importance of the work we are doing, we felt that this year was needed to be a year of change. The natural shift for me was to become a registered charity, so we can continue doing what we do best; help more families and create a legacy for the future – beyond the current team, beyond our current work, and for new generations of parents. 

After months of hard work, I am delighted to announce that we have finally reached that milestone – and we are officially now a registered charity!! 

So what does this mean? Whilst we’ve got a new logo and refreshed website, our services will be continuing as they have been; Stork Support offering free baby essentials, our Stork Store hub at Emmanuel centre and online offering affordable toys, clothes and equipment as well as weekly Stay and Play and support sessions, our weekly peer support group in Longsight and of course Breastfeeding support with BOOBS available 5 days a week.

The key difference is that there will be many ways for you to get involved – now we have a Registered Charity number you can fundraise for us through work or personally (more info coming soon), donate to us monthly or one-off, donate items to us to use in our shop or for our families, and there’ll be more volunteering opportunities over the coming months. We are looking for ambassadors to champion us and we are looking for a corporate sponsor – we’d love to be your charity of the year for 2024! Keep your eyes peeled for more information coming soon via our socials and blogs on our website.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve been blessed with so many people supporting our work – and we thank everyone who has been by our side over this journey. We are so excited by this new chapter and we look forward to your support going forward!