WHEN Louise Flanagan set up ‘Letterkenny Babies’ on Facebook to keep in touch with new mums she met after the birth of her first child, little could she have predicted its runaway success, and that she would meet two best friends.
From an initial handful of ‘likes’, the voluntary page celebrated its eighth birthday this week and now has almost 30,000 members.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Louise said she called the page ‘Letterkenny Babies’, believing it would only appeal to a handful of local parents.
“I set it up in 2014 when I was still on maternity leave with my first baby, Lucy.
“I had met some lovely mums on the maternity ward, at baby massage and other local mother and baby groups, and I thought it would be a good idea to set up a little Facebook page so that we could keep in touch and get to know friends of friends.
“I called the page ‘Letterkenny Babies’ because I thought it would only attract a handful of parents from the town.
“The day I set it up, I went through my friends list and invited anyone I knew with a baby around the same age as Lucy.
“Initially, there were probably 20 to 30 members, but they quickly invited more friends in turn and the page grew rapidly.
“There are now close to 30,000 members and that has all happened organically over the years,” she said.
Louise said although it was never her intention to set up such a massive page, she said she is very proud of what the page has become.
“It was initially set up to keep parents up to speed with baby related bargains, must-have baby products and to arrange walks and meet-ups in the local area.
“Now, we get all sorts of messages in.
“Most days, we get at least 50 messages in, but that often rises to over 100.
“We don’t post all of the messages we receive, but we do try to help out as many people as we can.”
The page helps someone every single day in some way or other, be that reuniting children with lost teddies to sourced very specific toys at Christmas time.
“It is a lovely feel-good page which is quite miraculous, given its size,” said Louise.
‘Letterkenny Babies’ has also helped raise more than €62,000 through fundraising events for a number of charities close to the hearts of many local people, including Bumbleance and St Vincent de Paul.
“We organise an annual First Communion event, selling on donated preloved Communion wear for boys and girls. My own daughter, Lucy, wore a stunning dress from the event herself this year for her First Communion.”
‘Letterkenny Babies’ remained a constant source for parents throughout the Covid-19 pandemic when there was so much uncertainty, and children were at a loss because of a dramatic change in their school routine.
“We organise an annual Christmas Jumper Party for kids in the community centre.
“Covid scuppered our plans for the past two years, but we already have this year’s party pencilled in and can’t wait to have some festive fun again.”
As with all social media, there have been some slight negatives.
“There are times when we have to delete or remove posts, but for the most part, page members are on board with the ‘good vibes only’ philosophy of the page. So many aspects of social media can be quite negative and toxic, so we work hard on promoting kindness on the page – recommending what we like, rather than criticising what we don’t like.”
With the page growing from strength to strength, Louise enlisted the help of two other women she met through the page to help with the admin.
She said they are now two of her very best friends.
“I asked Edel McElhinney to help me out a couple of years ago and she has been a godsend ever since.
“More recently, Clare Molloy joined us and she has been such an amazing addition to the page.
“It is so busy that it honestly could be a full time job, but the reality is, it is all done voluntarily by three mammies who all have jobs too. It can be exhausting but we are so proud of all of the good that the page does.
“It’s worth the effort of keeping it going.
“Without the dedication of Edel and Clare, the page would have fizzled out years ago.
“I couldn’t have maintained it without them. Some people assume that we have known each other for years, but I met both Edel and Clare through the page.
“That, for me on a personal level, has been the best outcome of the page.
“After all, I essentially set it up to make some friends -and I found two of the very best.”
Louise said her future hopes for the page is that it continues to “tick along nicely” and “serve the community”.
She paid thanks to all supporters.
“I’d like to thank everyone who takes the time to reply to other members’ questions, offering helpful suggestions and advice in response to the range of questions we receive.”