Ralph James

Santa Stork’s workshop: a morning volunteering.

On Wednesday 16th November, Ralph James took part in one of Stripey Stork’s incredibly popular corporate volunteer days at Santa Stork’s workshop. Acting as Elves, we picked, packed and organised gifts for families struggling this year, and learnt more about the campaign. We couldn’t not share it with you!

Santa Stork.

Stripey Stork are a baby bank based in Reigate, Surrey. Founded by Nicola in October 2013, Stripey have passed out £3m worth of goods to meet over 20,000 requests for help, supporting families in need with donations and items that they receive. Toys, clothes and other essential items for babies and children, after checking they meet current national safety standards, are rehomed with local families experiencing hardship. All referrals are requests received from local professionals, organisations and councils on behalf of families in need across Surrey. Every month, Stripey Stork creates a new wish list to let supporters know what is needed, such as Winter coats. Most importantly, Stripey Stork prides itself on passing on items in great condition. They want the families who receive items from the bank to feel like they are receiving a gift and not a handout.

“I will never forget what they did for me”
– mum to Elizabeth.

Santa Stork is Stripey’s Christmas campaign, where we come together to bring the magic of Christmas to children across Surrey. We believe that every child deserves some special Christmas magic. With many families struggling as energy prices and interest rates rise, we know that the challenge to deliver even a simple family Christmas will be bigger than ever in 2022.

This festive campaign is set to be their biggest yet. Stripey expects a record number of requests this year, but the number of gifts distributed will depend on how much support they receive from the community. The Elves are ready – once you pledge your support they will get to work!

Santa Stork is here to ensure that no child in our community has to think that Santa has forgotten them.

Ralph James Elves.

This morning it was Ralph James’ turn to get to work.

Having found our best sparkly, bright or patterned jumpers and donned our festive headbands, the team arrived at the secret Reigate location at 09:30am and collected their badges. We were greeted by Donna, Partnerships Manager at Stripey Stork, and the impressive Stripey themed Christmas tree!

Kettle on, hot drinks made and a biscuit or two passed around, and we were offered a tour of the operations. In a presentation, Donna shared the campaign’s history, purpose and the goals for this year. A tear or two were definitely shed when hearing some of the personal stories, and what Santa Stork offers families facing hardship, or overcoming dangerous situations.

Find out more about the Santa Stork campaign by clicking here.

“I found today very rewarding and incredibly emotional. I was shocked to realise how many families in our area are facing financial hardship and so I was really pleased to be able to do a little bit to help.  I’m looking forward to raising further funds at the Reigate Christmas Fayre in December.”

– Jackie, Reigate Sales Manager

The Ralph James team were wonderfully represented by Nicky and Jackie from Reigate, Marie-Elise from our Dorking branch, our Redhill viewing agent Carole, and Ashly – from Marketing – with her ever-present camera. You can get to know them a little better over on our about page.

Half an hour later, and we were stuck in.

Referral partners provide a personalised list of individuals, along with their age and choice of gift, and as Elves, Ashly, Marie-Elise and Carole would pick the item, any batteries required, and prepare it to be packed, whilst Nicky and Jackie packed the wrapping paper, tags and tape, and selected the age-appropriate stocking fillers. Quite the organisation once we got going!

This year Ralph James offered our offices as drop-off points for stocking fillers, and seeing so many of the donations we helped load into the car was rewarding in itself. So many chocolate coins!

Santa Stork consider everything – the choice of the child, the dignity of the parents, and the feel that Christmas should give every family. Parents and carers have the opportunity to remove all charitable labels, wrap their own gifts, write their own tags and remove the notion of a ‘hand out’. Items are packed ‘ready to go’ – with batteries provided to electronic gifts in their correct quantities, and pads accompanying all art sets. A detail that really sets them apart.

Every child or family will receive a Christmas bag, wrapping paper, tags and tape, a gift of their choice, an age-appropriate stocking filler and batteries where required.

“It was absolutely amazing to be able to help Stripey Stork with their Santa Stork campaign. To see how many families are in need at this time of year really brings it home and it was a wonderful feeling to be able to pick and pack the gifts and help in some small way.”

– Nicky, Reigate Branch Manager

At 10:30am a Toy Barnhaus delivery arrived! The Elves assisted in unloading the boxes – ready to be organised by this afternoon’s Duke of Edinburgh volunteer group – and we learned about their involvement: Local business Toy Barnhaus have partnered with Stripey Stork to provide 75 options of gift to choose from, and each is ordered and delivered upon request, so nothing can go to waste.

If you’d like to see the selection on offer, head over to Stripey Stork’s Santa shop – you can even choose gifts to donate so that the fund is there for when a child places their order.

Every child deserves some special Christmas magic.

The Santa Stork Elves are the kindest hosts, and regular tea and coffee breaks are encouraged – accompanied with mince pies and cherry bake wells naturally! So at 11:30am, that’s exactly what we did.

With the combination of Christmas music and cheery treats, it was hard not to get into the festive spirit! It’s safe to say we’re all ready for the season now.

“What a lovely and wholesome way to spend our morning as a team. It is such a joy to see how generous our community is, and put us all in the festive spirit of giving!”

– Marie-Elise, Dorking Senior Negotiator

We couldn’t resist throwing some fun in the mix – and with the opportunity to take some photos for Social Media in order to further spread the word – some mini shoots ensued with Abbie, one of the Santa Stork Volunteer Coordinators!

Stripey Stork provide a variety of Santa hats – including a sequin one! – as well as festive headbands and novelty Christmas glasses. Even a Christmas Pudding costume! How great does Marie-Elise look?

“I felt honoured being there, it was a joyful feeling to see how wonderful and generous people are, there is a lot of kindness out there.”

– Carole, Redhill & Reigate Viewing Specialist

Every gift packed has a greeting label where the Elves can sign their name – demonstrating all gifts are packed with care. These are tied to the bags and are easily removable should recipients wish to do so. Stripey Stork encourage feedback, in order to grow and learn each year. By listening, they’ve made the Santa Stork campaign what it is today.

With referrals sometimes coming in up until the end of the campaign, especially following emergency situations, donated (but new) toys and toiletries are wrapped and handed to refugee centres for those coming in last minute. These are organised by age.

Cutting out some tags, laminating them and a final task of breaking down excess cardboard and we were done! We even found the ideal cardboard box to create this year’s Christmas Fayre lucky dip (stay tuned), after all – it’s all about reusing and recycling.

A great cause, a great experience and a great organisation. Stripey Stork are truly amazing, and to make giving back as fun as they do, they deserve all the recognition they get and more.

“I think what Stripey Stork offers with their Santa Stork campaign is amazing. The emphasis on choice and dignity really strikes a chord for me, and the personal stories really are the drive behind us shouting about their work where we can.”

– Ashly, Marketing Manager & Content Creator

At Ralph James, we’re proud to have the reach that we do and regularly demonstrate the power of social media when it comes to raising awareness! We’d love to invite you to donate your unused items, fundraise doing something fun, or better yet, come and see us on Saturday 3rd December at the Reigate Christmas Fayre on Church Street, where we’ll be fundraising for Santa Stork with a host of family-fun activities and vegan, gluten-free cupcakes!

You can donate to the 2022 Santa Stork crowdfunder here.

Alternatively, why not sit with your child and choose a gift to purchase from the Santa Shop?

Unlike the regular donations, these gifts are new and in some cases will be the main or only present they’ll receive this Christmas. Santa Stork’s aim is to ensure they have enough funds to buy presents for every child and parent/carer referred to them this Christmas.

How amazing!

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