This week our speaker was Shannon Stewart, the founder and Board Chair of Basically Babies. Shannon told us that this locally based charity has been operating for twenty-seven years in Edmonton and has just expanded to Calgary as well. She said that their goal is to help families with babies that are living in extreme poverty by providing a complete package of baby clothing and supplies designed to last for two years. The layette package includes one hundred and ten items based on a carefully thought out complied list that will provide items for use in spring, summer, fall and winter from newborn to two years of age. Basically Babies partners with other agencies that provide life skills training and the families that they help are recommended to them by these agencies based on their family situation. They also work with social agencies dealing with addictions, refugees, indigenous people, women’s shelters, homeless people, and people with disabilities. These are usually people or families living in extreme poverty, often with other complicating circumstances such as unemployment, low education, language difficulties, and sometimes mental or physical handicaps. Their partner agency picks up and delivers the layette to the family or person in need.
Basically Babies accepts donations of new and gently used items and volunteers clean, sort, iron and prepare the baskets using the compiled list. She said that about ninety percent of their items are gently used. They also accept monetary donations and use these to purchase any missing items for their baskets. Their hope is that by supplying these basic supplies they can help these families to focus their resources on other things. They maintain a warehouse that normally has about four hundred part time volunteers that help out over the year. They usually handle an inventory of one hundred thousand baby items over one year. Their operations protocols have been modified to deal with the pandemic restrictions. They now have a curbside donation set up and their inventory has dropped to three thousand items. Shannon also described some of their management principles and how they plan for contingencies. They recently had a donation trailer stolen, but they did have insurance and are hoping to be able to replace it soon.  Their protocols for handling clothing items has changed to ensure the safety, protection and prevention of infection for their staff, volunteers and customers. Their three major fundraisers for the year have also been cancelled. Most of their funding comes from grass roots donations with about twenty to thirty percent from grants. They can use donations both monetary and in kind and were happy that we helped them out this past year