So…Basically Babies didn’t always look like this! In fact, we didn’t look anything like this at all! The initial idea for Basically Babies originated in January of 1994 with a group of 6 young moms, all friends, each with a new baby at the time, together recognizing a number of things:
- Raising a baby requires a large amount of baby gear
- We all have way too much baby gear
- There’s many young families that don’t have any baby gear
- We should find a way to give some of this baby gear to others in our community.
We started small…a group of young moms in a shag-covered basement room, an idea, and 6 or 7 boxes of baby clothing and we went from there. We named our project “Baby Bundles” and started collecting baby items and telling others about our idea. We connected with friends that were pediatricians and obstetricians so that they could connect us with needy families with newborns. We collected, sorted, sized, selected, laundered, ironed, and subsequently created beautifully packaged, colour-coordinated packages of baby items that any new mom would be happy to receive. We met monthly and prepared and distributed 10-15 layettes each year. We carried on for a number of years expanding and growing into 2 basement rooms, then an entire basement, and then a set of guest rooms and a basement. We met more frequently and expanded our production, our collection of baby items and our overall distribution of the finished layettes to needy families. Some of the original members moved away or found other interests and we lost some people and gained some new people but in the process together we recognized a number of things:
- There were many needs in our community but we weren’t fully aware until we started really looking
- We could not fix everything but we could certainly do something
- Our work was important in filling not only a practical need but also provided hope and dignity
- We needed to expand to meet the growing need.
So…we set about looking for a small space to house our growing project. To date, we had self-funded all operations and the thought of self-funding leased space was daunting, however, a solid commitment to the work was there and so we stepped out and leased an 800 square foot second-floor space in south Edmonton. We had a new home!! The excitement was great and we set about moving forward this growing project. We also became a registered charity with all of the responsibility and accountability that is required through that process.
Along the way, organizations working with families living in situations of extreme need connected with us as they heard about and understood the nature of our work and the practical and beautiful packages we were preparing. Inner-city organizations, aboriginal organizations, abuse shelters, all manner of health-care agencies, organizations working with teens and organizations assisting in getting women out of street life all connected with us and wanted to ensure that their clients received a layette to assist them with their initial baby needs.
Through all this time we grew! We grew and we grew and we grew! This growth was based simply on need…need that was identified as we worked with the many organizations who were also assisting these families. We grew from several boxes of baby clothing in a basement with half a dozen volunteers to a full-scale, multi-faceted organization with a hundred thousand inventory items, several hundred volunteers, a large warehouse and much support from individuals, corporations and other organizations…all working together to help us “outfit newborns in need.”
Over the years, we have never lost sight of the one thing that we do…the purpose that we serve…our mandate…we “outfit newborns in need”..and we do it well! We have grown, changed, moved warehouses, added inventory, added production capacity, become more efficient, become more organized and added other resources but our focus has remained that of ensuring that newborns living in situations of extreme poverty are cared for in both a practical and beautiful way, through the provision of a layette.
That is our focus..that is our intent. For over 26 years we have served the needs of extremely needy families living in the City of Edmonton….and now Calgary too! It is our purpose…and it is our pleasure…to meet these needs.
As we move into our 26th year of operations, our story is… “to be continued”…and we are looking forward to our next chapters!