From its origins in a spare bedroom in Ovenden three years ago, the charity Mothershare has evolved to a stock room at the Threeways Centre that is heaving with donations.
Founded by Emmajayne Carter, the charity has provided hundreds of families across Calderdale with clothing, equipment and other essentials that are donated by the public.
After discovering there were a lot of thefts of baby formula and nappies in north Halifax because families were finding it difficult to provide for their children, Emmajayne decided something needed to be done.
“I thought if we could recycle some of the items families throw away and donate them to other families,” she says, “so if it’s a choice of buying a pair of shoes or some formula, they can buy the formula because we can provide the shoes.
“It’s just got bigger and bigger. We started off my dad’s spare bedroom with two or three bundles of clothing and a Moses basket, and we’ve probably got enough to kit out 30 or 40 families now.
“I used to answer emails in my lunch-hour and we’d pull together the referrals, wonder down to Northgate House to meet them and deliver them.
“It was very difficult in the early days. It’s not much easier now, but I feel under less pressure.
“My sister and daughter are on board, but we have a fantastic team of volunteers that we couldn’t exist without.”
Emmajayne, 40, who also works as a jeweller, is one of seven volunteers at the charity, which has operating costs of £15,000 a year.
They have recently received £3,000 from Calderdale Council’s small grants fund and £4,000 from the Community Foundation for Calderdale.
“That will help provide a paid member of staff because we are 95 per cent volunteer run,” says Emmajayne.
“Some of them work full-time so we come and do bits and pieces on an evening or our days off.
“Having a paid member of staff means we can provide a quicker, better service to the families in need.
“It’s also allowed us to take on extra office space rather than us working from our storage room.
“We’ve closed donations apart from safety equipment such as safety gates, baby monitors, high chairs and fire guards.
“We also need all our mattresses brand new for safety regulations. We usually have to raise the funds ourselves to purchase those.
“We’re inundated with clothes, and there’s only so much we can sort through or store.
“We’re still finding people who don’t know who we are or what we do. We have so many resources we can give out.
“We work with referral agencies, like family intervention teams, social services or Sure Start workers.
“We don’t have any specific criteria. We’re trying to alleviate poverty, primarily in north Halifax, which is Calderdale Council’s area of most deprivation.
“But we do spread out across Calderdale. We’re always looking for more volunteers and cash donations.
“We’ve recently been Harvey’s charity of the month, which raised £200, which can buy 10 safety gates or four mattresses.
“We have a lot of support from Lloyds Banking Group, who hold fundraising days for us, they have boxes in their offices for toiletries or products.
“They also have members of staff come to us to sort through donations and they’ll be decorating our office space for us. We can’t thank them enough.
“Tesco’s have also provided supplies from their pharmacy and clothing stock.”
“Everything sent out to families can be used for as long as needed, but is then sent back to the charity to be re-used.
But Emmajayne, who lives in Ovenden, says the project has been abused too, with people accepting donations of equipment and then selling them.
“The charity was dealing with four or five people a month when the charity started,” she says, “but that has risen to more than 30.
“The demand has increased recently because of universal credit.
“We deal with a lot of situations that aren’t necessarily single mums or low-income families.
“On New Year’s Day we were called out to deal with a family who had been living in a tent over Christmas with a three-month-old baby.
“They’d been made homeless, but our volunteers responded quickly to get some necessities to the child.
“Some of the families we deal with are living in dire situations, through no fault of their own. It’s not their choice - husbands can be made redundant, women walking out of domestic violence situations.
“It can be difficult but rewarding knowing the resources we’ve got can relieve some of the pressures on these families.”
“We don’t have enough funding to help all the families out there.
“If we get two referrals and one is from the valley and one is from north Halifax wanting the same items, the north Halifax family will get it.
“It would be fantastic to help them both, but we don’t have the funds, and with the introduction of universal credits, it just seems to be getting worse.
“Our project was set-up for 0-2-year-old’s, but the need is often also for a second or third child that’s older, so we’re now stocking clothing for seven, eight, nine-year-old’s where we can.
“But there’s only so much we can do.”
The charity won the 2016 North Halifax Neighbourhood Award for contribution to children and young people, and this year was runner up for both the contribution to children and young people award and the award for community involvement.
Last year it was runner up for charity of the year at the Community Foundation For Calderdale Awards.
Future plans include a toiletries for teenagers scheme in secondary schools, a sports kit bank, a uniform bank and a prom-wear bank.
When asked where she thinks the charity will be in another three years, Emmajayne added: “I’d like to think child poverty would ease and we wouldn’t be here. That would be the goal.
“But how big it’s got, I think we’ll have a bigger paid team, maybe two or three paid members of staff.
“I don’t know where all this stock would end up if we weren’t here, maybe just in landfill.
“I don’t know how the families would cope either. We delivered a cot bed to a family in Calderdale recently, and their little boy was sleeping in a bread crate they use in supermarkets.
“His mum had put a duvet inside it. It’s heartbreaking.
“We’ve shed a lot of tears between us.”
To donate or volunteer to the charity, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.localgiving.org/mothershare.