A Te Awamutu-based charity that provides essential baby products to in-need mothers and families is celebrating its sixth anniversary and a move to its own building this month.
Loving Arms, started in 2014 by Sharni Budd, has been run until now from volunteers' homes and a shipping container at Zion People Church, where volunteers were able to visit only once a week to make packs.
The group's new premises is at 405 Rickit Rd and it moved the organisation there in May.
The space provides plenty of room to store all their donated goods and to make up baby packs efficiently.
"I still can't believe we have a building because that's not even something that was on the forefront of my mind," says Sharni.
"The volunteers love it, there's carpet, there's a heat pump, it's sunny, we don't have to worry about the rain, and the kids are safe. We've got some volunteers that come in the weekend and they can shut the gate so that their kids can ride their bikes, it's just a lot safer and way more efficient,"
To celebrate the group's anniversary and its move to a new building Loving Arms will hold a celebration on Friday, July 24, which is open to the public to attend.
It will be from 5pm to 7.30pm at the new building, with official proceedings beginning at 6pm.
Loving Arms resulted from a simple call for help for one mother on Facebook in 2012.
After making the post, Sharni said, people were showing up to her house with new and second-hand baby products, money and vouchers for three months.
Not only did she have enough to help the mother she put the call out for help for, but she ended up being able to help about 10 other mothers and the response she received is what kickstarted Loving Arms.
So far the charity has been able to help nearly 700 families.
It also supports families and mothers through support programmes.
Its Mothers in Arms programme is a support group for mothers to be able to go to a space to connect with other mothers and hear from a guest speaker once a month.
Kaiawhina is a post-natal support service it provides for mothers who need an extra pair of hands around the house or someone to talk to.
"It is a service where we have our volunteers that come in and they will basically mother the mother. They will just spend some time even if it's just talking or folding washing or helping with dinner prep, just basic baby care or just being there for mum," says Sharni.
The service is a fairly new offering but was brought to a halt due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
The demand on the charity for baby products packs more than doubled in May due to the pandemic.
Last year Loving Arms helped a total of 180 families. In April this year it helped 30 and then in May it had more than 70 requests for support.
Fortunately, during the lockdown it was classed as an essential service and had special clearance from the Ministry of Social Development to travel to do deliveries.
"This year, since Covid-19, the need's just gone through the roof," says Sharni.
"We were able to get some extra funding from a collective of funders and from the Ministry of Social Development that we were able to use to buy things like cots, socks, merino, nappies, toiletries and all those sorts of things because we weren't actually able to accept any donations over that time."
The group is currently getting about two requests a day for baby packs or support and collectively the team of 16 volunteers are working four days a week at least.