The Princess of Wales made a surprise visit to a ‘baby bank’ today and spoke of the importance of community initiatives as she helped pack tiny babygrows.
Kate, 41, also said she couldn’t believe how quickly her her son, Prince Louis, who celebrated his fifth birthday yesterday, was growing up and promised to bring her own family down to help out in the future.
The princess has visited several community initiatives in the Windsor area since her family moved there last year and told the organisers – who wrote asking if she would like to visit – that she was keen to see their work first hand.
Kate was elegant in a smart beige £285 blazer from Reiss for the occasion, which she wore with a pair of navy trousers and a plain white t-shirt.
She finished off her outfit with a pair of £130 pointed pumps from British brand Boden.
The Princess of Wales, 41, proved she is the queen of smart casual today as she recycled a cream £285 Reiss blazer during a visit to a baby bank in Windsor
Kate Middleton was beaming as she arrived at The Baby Bank close to her home of Adelaide Cottage today
The Baby Bank at Windsor was set up by two local mothers in 2015 and has since supported more than 24,000 families in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, which despite being close to Windsor Castle has huge pockets of deprivation.
The cost of living crisis has a seen a dramatic frisée in referrals, with the team helping a further 300 in the first three months of this year alone with everything from new-born starter kits to to nappies, buggies and beds.
Kate, who son Prince Louis celebrated his birthday on Sunday, told staff at the donations centre that she could not believe her youngest son had already turned five.
The royal mother-of-three has long been a supporter of baby banks, and has visited a number of sites across the country over the years.
The royal mother-of-three has long been a supporter of baby banks, and has visited a number of sites across the country over the years
Unlike other baby banks they provide clothes, including school uniforms, for children up until the age of 16.
They receive no public funding and rely on voluntary help and donations, grants and retailers and local suppliers.
The charity recently moved into new premises, which they now pay subsided rent for.
The Princess, casual in a beige jacket, trousers and flat black pumps with a buckle detail on, peppered the charity’s joins CEOs -Rebecca Mistry and Lauren Hall – with questions about their set up and local demand.
Rebecca explained how they try to match up donations with specific children so they don’t feel like they are relying on random hand-outs. ‘You put your own child in the picture,’ she explained.
‘Have you seen the needs of families change recently? ‘ Kate asked, surprised to discovered that while they had seen a huge rise in need, this has not been matched by donations.
‘People are hanging onto what they have or passing it to friends or selling things like buggies for a little cash,’ Lauren explained.
The Princess was quick to get stuck in at the charity, sorting through donations and folding baby grows
Kate, who has long been a champion for the importance of the early years, was enthusiastic as she chatted with fellow volunteers
During her visit, the royal met with volunteers and heard how the organisations works with local partners, including health visitors and midwives to provide support to families in need
‘What items are hard to come by? ‘ Kate enquired. Nappies, buggies and bigger items such a single beds, she was told.
‘There is community support out there but it’s knowing where to go to get that support. And there is a stigma that exists sometimes, isn’t there, ‘ she asked.
‘Absolutely, we frequently find people who say ‘I can’t believe I need help from a charity’ or ‘I don’t need help from a charity,’ agreed Rebecca.. ‘But we so strict about clothing that we give out. We know we are impacting someone mental health, affecting their family by what their child is wearing. We really try to match what we have with a particular child and double check stuff for quality.’
Kate examined a large pile of boxes that had been donated by Mattel containing Buzz Lightyear toys.
‘Oh yes, my daughter is a huge fan of Toy Story,’ the princess said.
She was interested to hear about The Baby Bank’s reach as ‘people might not initially think it’s a primary need area’.
Rebecca then told her: ‘Well if you don’t mind we will take you upstairs to help us sort some stuff out.’ ‘Yes please!’ Kate enthused.
Faced with huge piles of donated clothges which needed to be sorted out into age categories, with less good quality or stained clothes discarded, she said: ‘This must be one of the more time consuming elements.’
Chatting with volunteers, she joked: ‘I’m not gong to double check your work, don’t worry. It’s actually very hard, some of them don’t have labels on them. Would you be looking for the quality of the items donated?
She remarked on how tiny the clothes were, saying how her youngest son, Louis, had turned five the previous day. ‘It only feels like yesterday that they were this tiny. They do grow so quickly.’
The princess was also keen to talk about the importance of volunteering and The Big Help Out, an event being held on May 8 as part of the coronation celebrations to encouraging people to get out and volunteer in their communities.
The Princess of Wales has confessed she can’t believe her youngest son Louis has turned five – after celebrating his birthday over the weekend
She said: ‘It’s important for people to know that you don’t have to commit to a full day, if you can have a slot in the morning. It’s match-making people within the community who want to go and do something with the right organisation. ‘ Lauren replied: ‘We are open three days and a week and we say to people if you can only give an hour, absolutely fine. If you want to stay until lunch in the, which is what a lot for people do, then that’s good too. We have 20 volunteers without whom couldn’t operate.’
Kate added: ‘I do think it stops people, this feeling that the have to commit to a big chunk of time. They are nervous about committing. When you see the volume if stock here you can see that every hour helps.’
One volunteer admitted she helps out for a few hours before going to the gym. The princess piped up: ‘No, you are absolutely right, you shouldn’t feel bad. People have busy lives. It’s fine not to commit yourself and work out what you can fit in with you busy day to day life. ‘ Another volunteer told her:’ No it’s super flexible, which is great.’
As she sorted through the closes, Rebecca told her that any people felt broody when they saw how tiny they were and joked: ‘Whereas I look at them and think I don’t want to go through that again.’
The princess laughed and said: ‘I’ve been there and done that.’
Before she left the princess sat down and chatted with some of the bank’s volunteers as well as local midwives and health visitors who are instrumental in referring families to it for help.
She was told about how some families get incredibly emotional when they are given clothes, food and equipment for their families.
She opted for neutral makeup for the occasion, with a touch of eyeliner and a pop of nude lipgloss
She said: ‘As midwives you’ll see families often in preparation for having a new born baby, probably with other children. The support you give must mean a huge amount.
‘When it comes to community you are so pivotal in supporting families, but your work is so often behind the scenes. Being able to work holistically, being able to join all the dots is really vital for families and being able to say to them ‘look, this is what is available to you’
‘It’s a particularly difficult time for midwifery, for organisations like this and for health visitors. You are under huge amounts of pressure to deliver fro families in increasing and growing need.
‘The need for joining up provisions and services for families is so important. If you can link the amazing work you are doing with health and education then it provides a whole network for families to integrate with.
‘I really wanted to come and shine a spotlight on the amazing work that you are all doing collectively, it’s so needed. My passion in helping to raise under fives and you are living and breathing this. You see their challenges. We all need to do as much as we can to help them.
‘You are their lifeline.’
She added: ‘That’s where the volunteering comes in so brilliantly. But you always need more. ‘ She laughed when she was asked what more could be done in terms of raising the profile of baby banks and was told: ‘Having people like you visit!’
Before she left the Princess promised to return one day with her own three children – or ‘perhaps my helpful ones and not my unhelpful ones!’
Rebecca Mistry said of the visit: ‘You could see her passion. Those first five years are crucial. We are getting referrals post-pandemic for children who don’t know how to play because they haven’t been able to socialise. Support of high profile people like hers is crucial. But most importantly she wants to help, she wants to make a difference.
‘She was very aware of the stigma issue. We are a registered charity but this is just one parents helping another. ‘ Lauren Hall added: ‘She said she would bring her children down. I said I would bring my five-year-old to play with Louis. They can keep each other occupied. I think Louis here would be awesome. They can chose which toys the children should have.’
It also hopes to ‘break the cycle’ for parents who experienced difficult childhoods themselves.
Palace aides say the idea for the project began even before Kate became a mother.
Today’s visit comes amidst a busy period for the Princess, who celebrated her youngest son Prince Louis’ birthday over the weekend.
The Prince and Princess released a number of photographs to mark his fifth birthday on Saturday,
The youngster sat atop a pile of garden cuttings in one of the relaxed pictures taken in the garden of Adelaide Cottage in Windsor, the family home.
Proud parents Kate and William said they were ‘delighted’ to share the images of their energetic youngest child tonight.
In one of the pictures, Louis – wearing shorts, shirt and a woollen jumper – was seen grinning at someone out of shot as he takes his wheelbarrow ride. The other is an intimate close-up of his smiling face.
Not known for sitting still for long, Louis – previously described by his mother as a ‘kamikaze’ rugby player – is often pictured in an active stance.
Unlike previous family portraits, however, these images were not taken by keen photographer Kate. Instead, the charming family moment was captured by Millie Pilkington, who was previously trusted by Kate and William to privately photograph their wedding reception in 2011.
Prince Louis is expected to join his older siblings George, nine, and Charlotte, soon to turn eight, for the carriage procession at the Coronation on May 6.
While George, the second in line to the throne, is expected to have a role in the service, it is thought Louis will join working members of the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace for an RAF flypast.