A few months ago we were talking about how our garages were filled with old baby clothes, cots, strollers and toys. With winter coming up, we knew that our items would be much better used by a family that needed them instead of collecting dust at our house. So we set on a mission to find a place that would fully utilize our donations. That is how we found The Dandelion Support network and the incredible women behind it. We were so moved by what they do that we will be teaming up with them on a project in the coming months. They desperately need financial help and anyway that we can help raise awareness for this amazing organisation, we will be putting our hand up. We had the pleasure of hearing from Gabrielle and Sarah, so please read and enjoy.
Who are you?
Gabrielle Humphreys & Sarah Mross – we job share the role of Partnership and Sustainability Officer for Dandelion Support Network, as well as helping in other areas of running the organisation.
What is The Dandelion Support Network?
Dandelion Support Network is a charity run by volunteers who accept, sort and safety check nursery items, clothes, toys and linen for babies and kids. Once prepared, the donations are then passed on to families in need through referrals from social workers at hospitals and welfare agencies, free of charge. Dandelion’s vision is that all babies and children have access to nursery items essential for their safety, well-being and development and we achieve this while reducing the environmental footprint of the community. As we do not receive any government funding, we rely on volunteers and the generosity of the community for donations to allow us to continue our work.
What inspired you to start The Dandelion Support network?
Dandelion was set up just over 4 years ago by two Mums who found there was nowhere they could donate their used cots and prams. Existing charities no longer accept these items for insurance reasons. This meant that if cots, prams and car seats are not sold or passed down to other siblings, family or friends, they could became landfill. The Mums felt that there must be a way to recycle these valuable items and at the same time assist people who could not afford these items.
They did some research and found out about an organisation in Melbourne called St Kilda Mums which provides a similar service and at the same time they held discussions with social workers at two hospitals. Shortly after this, the first request for an expectant mother in desperate need came in and Dandelion was born. The founders are no longer involved, for family reasons, but are still keen supporters of the work of Dandelion.
How does it work?
We work through referrals from social workers at hospitals and welfare agencies. The case workers send us a request which may be for an expectant mother, or a family with older children. Depending on the situation, the request may be for clothing, toys, linen, a pram, car seat, bassinet and/or a cot. We liaise with the agency to get the most suitable items and they collect these on behalf of their client.
The families we assist find themselves in a position of disadvantage for various reasons ranging from domestic violence and abuse, severe financial disadvantage or refugees trying to make a fresh start against all odds.
If someone wanted to get involved, how would they go about it?
We always welcome new people to the Dandelion network. If you’re interested in donating new and preloved items, the best place to start is our website and Facebook page, where we list details of our donations days. New volunteers are also most welcome, particularly to help at our Centre in Caringbah. Simply email your details to email@example.com, or submit the form on our website.
We know that you have helped 2500 families since you started in 2011, do you have any experiences that stand out?
Gabrielle: At Dandelion we don’t actually meet the families we assist, but I’ll always remember the story I heard about a refugee family who had just had a baby and when their social worker went to the family’s home to deliver the goods from Dandelion, they found they just had a baby and a blanket. No other clothing, no nursery goods, no nothing. This was in the middle of winter. Another story that sticks with me was the family who got told by their Dr that they were getting sick all the time because they weren’t keeping warm enough. My family wants for nothing – we aren’t rich but we can look after ourselves. It broke my heart to think this family couldn’t even afford to keep warm which meant the children were continually sick.
Sarah: So many stories we hear are heartbreaking, and motivate us to continue to help making a difference. I remember being particularly moved by a referral that came in when my baby was 3 weeks old, for a baby the same age. It was winter and I was in a warm house, feeling supported while this young Mum and her newborn had no permanent housing a complex history and no support. I’m so glad we can show people like this Mum that there is a community around her that cares and she’s not alone.
You have a wonderful team of passionate people, many of them are volunteers, how do you all balance being a mother, working and running this incredible organisation?
Gabrielle: It is a tricky balancing act which I’m sure I don’t get right most of the time! I am trying to allocate more time to myself – being a typical mum I tend to be last on my list, but it is hard not to spend long hours doing work for Dandelion when I hear the heart wrenching stories of how other families are really doing it tough.
I know other volunteers ensure that when they are at our warehouse they work (and many of our wonderful volunteers are there quite regularly) and when they are home they have family time and time for themselves. This seems to work well for many volunteers.
Sarah: I have a 10 month old and a 6 year old, so being in that first year with a baby, the balance isn’t always there. Thankfully a fantastic team of volunteers and supportive family help enormously.
How do you unwind after a long day of sorting through donations?
Gabrielle: I enjoy collapsing on the couch with a drink!
Sarah: I like to spend time with my husband and kids, as well as catching up with wider family and friends when I get a chance. My night-time ritual is to read at least a few pages of a book before bed, which helps me to switch off from the busyness of the day.
What is next for The Dandelion Support Network?
We have gone from helping 125 families in our first year, to over 1,000 families last year, so our main focus is getting people and processes in place to manage such fast growth. We’re looking for partner organisations to help us achieve financial sustainability to enable us to continue helping families in need.
Do you know of any other organisations or volunteer groups that you think we should check out?
There are so many great organisations helping those in need in the community, it’s hard to narrow it down. One worthwhile organisation helping children is Foster Care Angels, who provide care packs for children entering foster care.
You can find the Dandelion Support Network at:
If you are a brand that would like to donate or sponsor The Dandelion Network, please contact Sarah or Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information