As Christians we are called to serve our community and love our neighbour, but that calling was so strong for Laura, she had vulnerable families in our diocese on her heart before she had even moved to Leicester.
At a crossroads in her teaching career, and looking for a new challenge, Laura was due to move to Leicester with her husband who was starting his curacy at the Church of the Martyrs, and felt there had to be a reason why she was being called to the city, too.
It didn’t take long for God to reveal His plan. Laura had already volunteered with the Baby Bank Network in Bristol, and a simple Google search led her to discover the lack of support there was in Leicestershire for mums and families who were struggling to meet the financial and practical responsibilities of looking after a new baby.
“I immediately thought, I’d love to start something like this in Leicester, to help people in a practical way, and share God’s love while doing it - but I literally had no location, no finances and no volunteers,” she says.
Before she moved, Laura was put in touch with the Children’s Health Commissioner at Leicester City Council, who quite coincidentally was looking into doing something similar. It was a meeting of hearts and minds. And from there, God just started opening doors – on what has been ‘an amazing journey,’ says Laura.
“When we moved to Leicester, we hadn’t lived in an area like Narborough Road before, and the need was quite obvious in that community,” she says. “I spoke with the vicar of Martyrs at the time, Richard Worsfold, and he just said ‘go for it,’ so I did!”
In 2017, Baby Basics Leicester was born – a volunteer-led charity, providing much needed baby essentials and equipment, for free, to mums most in need.
They started out in a rent-free, run-down, city centre house – just Laura and one other woman.
Today, Laura and her small team of volunteers support around 50 families each month, providing everything from Moses baskets and buggies, to toiletry bundles, toys and clothes. Last year they dealt with 452 referrals from health care professionals and other local charities across the diocese. Leicester is now the second biggest Baby Basics centre in the UK.
“We hear the heart-breaking stories from health professionals, who say that without our service, they don’t know where they’d be,” explains Laura.
“It’s really quite amazing, sometimes we’ll need a specific item and then ten minutes later, the doorbell will go and that item has arrived from a random location. God is good.”
Over the years Laura says they have developed a team that’s a great mix of Christians and non-Christians with a heart to help.
“We want to demonstrate our faith in practical ways, to take action and make that real, therefore sharing our everyday faith with people while growing in our own discipleship,” she says.
“God provided everything we needed, and that felt quite surreal, but it also confirmed to me that God didn’t only have a job for Gareth – He called me to Leicester, also. He knew that I wasn’t sure about teaching, and yet He also led me to a supply teaching job in a school, which has helped financially and allows me to keep my hand in that career, without the stress and responsibility.”
She continues: “I’m very thankful to God. A lot of prayer went into this. I’m naturally not an upfront person who likes to speak in public, and He pushed me out of my comfort zone. God’s given me the ability to do that – to share my heart – and what I’d like to do now is get the Church excited about it and bring in more volunteers who have a heart for helping people.”
Laura now lives and worships in the benefice of Kirby Muxloe and Desford, but the Church of the Martyrs continues to support Baby Basics, with a number of the church family volunteering in the charity.
“It’s nice having the support of the community where we started from,” she says. “The charity spans and supports communities across the whole diocese.”
Having already been short of space, and with double the amount of referrals since the pandemic started, Laura has worked hard to secure funds here and there to sustain the charity.
During Lockdown 3, in January, she started the application process for a more substantial National Lottery Community Fund grant.
“I’m dyslexic and have always found grant applications quite taxing on the brain, but I kept persevering, through the paperwork and process - which was pretty tough – and in prayer, trusting God that this was the right thing to do and that He has a plan for us,” says Laura.
And it has paid off. Baby Basics was recently awarded a £70,000 grant that will fund new, bigger premises over the next 5 years.
Laura’s advice to those who have ‘a dream’, and are being nudged by God, is to embrace that feeling and have the courage of your convictions.
“I would encourage people to believe in themselves, and if they feel called to do something, then push at those doors to see which open and get friends and your church family involved in your discussions,” she says.
“I took myself out of my comfort zone and trusted in the fact that God calls us to step up and challenge ourselves. There are so many people out there that need God’s love - so reach out to them.”
If you would like to donate to Baby Basics, the charity’s Amazon wishlist is a good place to start, while there are a number of locations around the county to drop off much needed items. For more info, see: www.babybasicsleicester.co.uk
If you have a heart for showing God’s love to those families most vulnerable, and have a few hours spare a fortnight to help sort donations, pack referrals and work with the Baby Basics team, then contact Laura on: email@example.com