When Kelly saw a need in her local community and a means to help, she jumped at the chance. Late November 2017, she opened the doors of Bellyful’s 19th branch on Hibiscus Coast, to provide the type of support that meant so much to her when she first became a parent herself.
When mum of two, Kelly, first volunteered with Bellyful she didn’t realise how much she would love helping families with new babies or sick children, and that she would go on to start a new branch.
“Our eldest was born on a stunningly hot New Year’s day, and came out yelling. My first thought was she looked beautiful and my second thought was ‘Please don’t leave me alone with her!’ I felt extremely unqualified.“
Those early weeks and months brought lots of love, smiles, and laughs, but also a fair amount of crying too for Kelly. Dealing with fluctuating hormones, healing up after birth, building confidence as a new mum, adjusting to being at home, getting used to being 24/7 on call, and all the while running on a few hours of broken sleep a night was tough.
“But I was lucky. I had my supportive husband, my mum who had taken leave off work to come and share the cuddles and make lunches and my mother-in-law who filled our freezer with yummy meals. I also had an amazing set of supportive friends and new friends from antenatal group to help us adjust to life with this beautiful, tiny stranger who had set up camp at our house.“
Kelly wanted to help others, so she started volunteering running a weekly drop-in coffee group, where parents had a space to share their experiences with each other and build up their support networks.
She came across Bellyful a while later when she was researching resources available to local families, and the branch coordinator of North Shore asked if she would help by delivering meals on the Hibiscus Coast.
“By then I had a one and a three year old who kept me pretty busy so I was a little nervous about committing – but I loved the philosophy of community and offering help without judgement. So I attended a Cookathon, where all the meals are cooked and packaged, and did a couple of deliveries. That was it – I was sold!”
One of the first deliveries Kelly made was to a family with a prem baby in the intensive care unit.
“The recipient had just got home from her daily 12 hour stint at hospital and was absolutely exhausted. She was tearful and so grateful when I handed her the meals. They had been living on takeaways or toast for the past week. It was really affecting to see the difference a few meals made at such a tough time.”
One year later, Kelly took on the challenge of starting a new Bellyful branch in Hibiscus Coast with energy and enthusiasm. In only four months, Kelly recruited over 25 volunteers, fundraised and liaised with local community groups.
“What really motivates me is the thought of all the local families out there who are struggling and might not have that support network – I want to be able to reach everyone that could benefit from our help.
“I haven’t yet had that feeling that I have bitten off more than I can chew, which honestly surprises me because I am relatively new to volunteering, and in the past have been hesitant to commit myself fully in case I got stuck.“
Kelly’s focus and commitment paid off and on 27th November 2017 Bellyful Hibiscus Coast officially opened. Volunteers cooked and packaged up 82 meals that day.
“To me, Bellyful absolutely embodies community spirit. I think the fact that Bellyful exists sends the message to families that, yes it can be hard with a new baby, or looking after young children with illness in the family, but they shouldn’t have to do it all by themselves.
“There is an amazing strength in asking for, and accepting help.”