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Homeless become providers during Covid lockdown as Rotary steps up to help

Former rough sleepers at Derby’s Padley Hostel have been key players in the fight to stave off hunger and homelessness for hundreds in the city during the Covid crisis. 

With backing from churches, schools, private donors, supermarkets and Rotary Clubs, Padley has maintained its caring service against all the odds.  But it is now appealing for more support as it gears up to face the tough winter ahead.

The successful charity, founded in 1985, saw a 650% increase in demand for food parcels as the pandemic struck earlier in the year.  Since then it has prepared and served almost 10000 hot meals and delivered over 1000 food parcels to the hungry and homeless across Derby.  And several of the residents of the Padley hostel have been instrumental in what has been a major exercise, providing meals for the 100 or so people who have been housed in hotels and other hostels as part of the ‘Everyone In’ campaign to end rough sleeping in the city. During lockdown, they worked tirelessly processing and redistributing the donations of food, clothing and toiletries which poured into the hostel.

As well as housing the homeless, Padley redistributes food to eight other organisations in the city.  But although it has received donations from over 160 churches and schools in response to its Harvest Festival appeal, it still needs more help to make sure that no-one in Derby goes hungry as the effects of Covid in the winter months bite. 

Now Rotary Clubs in the region have stepped in to provide a new and vital lifeline for the charity.  Rotary4foodbanks has made its second delivery of over 80 cases of staple supplies – coffee, tinned meat, tinned fruit and cereals – to ensure that stocks continue to meet the growing demand.

Rotary Clubs from across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire have so far raised £100,000 which they have used to bulk buy food at discounted prices.  They then distribute this free to foodbanks and charities across the region.  Padley is one of 50 organisations to have benefited from the scheme.

“It could happen to any one of us”

Allan Shaw, chairman of the Padley charity, says the response of the public generally and Rotarians especially has been terrific, but so much more needs to be done:

“The stigma of homelessness and of families just struggling to survive is still there.  But more people are now understanding how it could happen to any one of us.  Covid has brought into sharp focus how we are all vulnerable and the responsibility we have to care for each other, for the greater good.  I have been heartened by the fantastic support there has been for organisations like Padley and the foodbank movement and am hugely grateful to Rotary for their continued support.”

Since 2014, Padley has received no government funding for its operation and has to rely entirely on the generosity of the public.  At the same time, the demand on the services of homeless and foodbank charities looks set to increase.  It is estimated that an additional eight million people will be using foodbank services in the next couple of years.

To find out more about how to help Padley visit www.padleygroup.com

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

Posted in: Rotary4Foodbanks

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Foodbank fears Harvest Festival shortfall as demand for services soars

Chesterfield Foodbank fears that due to Covid restrictions this year they will lose up to half of the five tons of vital food supplies which they normally get from harvest festival collections.  But, says project co-ordinator Pat Evans, the generosity of churches, supermarkets and organisations like the Rotary Club will help to see them through the tough winter ahead.

Pat Evans of Chesterfield Foodbank prepares to deliver vital food donated by Rotary4foodbanks across the Chesterfield area

Before the pandemic, Chesterfield Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust, operated from four centres in the area.  “Immediately the pandemic struck we lost volunteers, many of whom are older and needed to shield,” says Pat, “so we had to close two of our operations.”

Almost all of the people and families they support are referred to the foodbank via agencies. One in every three were referred by the local Job Centre which also closed its doors. 

“We had to change the way we operated.  We lost the scope to meet, greet and chat with those in need.  Instead we took vouchers by email and people collected bags of food from our doorsteps.  That was hard for everyone – we offer more than food; we give help, advice and a listening ear and that really matters.”

“Thankfully,” says Pat, who took over the foodbank operation in November last year, “we started with good stock levels, but they were quickly depleted.  It has been the generosity of the general public, supermarkets and Rotary that has seen us through.  Morrisons, Asda and Tesco have been brilliant.  Then our local Rotary Clubs in Bolsover, Chesterfield and Scarsdale stepped in with big donations to buy vital food supplies to meet demand.”

Now the foodbank team at Chesterfield has a new lifeline.  Rotary4foodbanks, a regionwide scheme to pool funds and buy food at bulk discounted prices for around 50 foodbanks across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, has made its second Chesterfield delivery – pallets containing over 80 cases of coffee, tinned meat, tinned fruit and other stock items and has pledged to support foodbanks throughout the coming winter and beyond.

Pat Evans of Chesterfield Foodbank loads the next delivery of food supplied by Rotary4foobdbanks

Says Rotary4foodbanks’ project leader, John Cavey:

“At local level Rotary Clubs do brilliant work supporting charities and communities.  We could see a need regionally to bring together all that good will and use the collective strength of the clubs to help foodbanks across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.  But we need the public to help too. We’ve made it easy by creating a Rotary4foodbanks Just Giving page where people can donate, knowing that every penny they give goes directly to buying food for foodbanks.  As Rotarians, we are all unpaid volunteers and so the programme has no costs or overheads.”

In Chesterfield, Pat Evans and his team have now re-opened one of the two closed centres and are trialling a new outlet at New Whittington.  They are also planning to re-open their operation at Loundsley Green Community Centre.  They have introduced a delivery service to reach people who can’t get to collect their vital food supplies.

Says Pat: “There is a lot of anxiety out there amongst people struggling to get by and fearing job losses or reduced working hours which will put even more pressure on already stretched family finances.  We know things are going to get tougher as winter approaches.  We’re here to help.” With traditional harvest festivals being put on hold this year, Pat is confident that the schools and churches will find ways to support their local foodbanks and the Rotary4foodbanks project.

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

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Flowers provide final Jigsaw piece for struggling families in Matlock area

When the pandemic first hit, Jigsaw Foodbank was flooded with offers of help from volunteers and support from supermarkets and local Rotary Clubs.  But now, with six new referrals in one single day recently, the Jigsaw team has real concerns about what this winter holds for struggling families in the region.

Requests for help doubled in the first couple of weeks of lockdown back in March.  At the same time many of Jigsaw’s elderly volunteers were reluctantly having to step down and self-isolate.

“Pre-Covid we were supporting around 40 families or households each week.  Within three weeks that had increased to 75 households,” says former teacher Ruth Longfellow, one of the coordinators of Jigsaw foodbank which operates through Church in the Peak, Matlock.

Ruth Longfellow and husband Richard of Jigsaw Foodbank in Matlock, preparing to deliver flowers and vital food items to families in need, with the help of Rotary4foodbanks.

Ruth put out a call for help via the Wirksworth Rotary Club & Town Council and within 24 hours over 80 new volunteers had come forward.  With impressive efficiency Ruth and husband Richard quickly organised new packing and delivery teams to provide crisis parcels of food and supplies to homes in their patch – the A6 corridor between Wirksworth and Bakewell and all the neighbouring villages.

“Demand levelled off for a while over the summer but now, with a new wave of job losses, we are seeing the numbers rise again.  We’ve increased capacity to be able to support up to 100 households each week in the coming months but are mindful that this may not be sufficient over the winter,” she says.

Supplies from supermarket donation bins fell off at the start of the pandemic but Ruth praises people’s generosity.  “When they couldn’t give food they have given money.  Again the local Rotary Clubs stepped in, teaming up with a local wholesale supplier to provide fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the summer.”

Rotary has also provided another much-needed lifeline through its Rotary4foodbanks scheme, a major regional initiative which buys food in bulk and distributes it free to around 50 foodbanks across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.

“The Rotary4foodbanks scheme has delivered pallet-loads of staple items we sometimes find it hard to come by – coffee, tinned fruit, tuna & tinned meat – in volume to stock our shelves for the coming months.  That, coupled with the excellent support we receive from local supermarkets and organisations like FareShare provides the supplies we need to ensure no-one goes hungry in our area as the recession bites.”

Ruth says the rural nature of the community they serve brings its own particular problems of isolation, on top of all the problems of furlough, reduced working hours and redundancies that are increasing due to the current pandemic.

“Families, especially single-parent families, can feel a real sense of isolation. Hungry and hard up, that can lead to real despair,” she explains. “The very fact that someone comes to their door with vital supplies and unconditional support is really helping struggling families get by.”

She cites the example of a low income local family with four children where one parent had been laid off and the other had had their working hours reduced. “Our volunteers arrive on the doorstep with much-needed food supplies – tins, fresh fruit and veg and ready meals.  And, thanks to the surplus stock donated by M&S, the package was also topped off with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers.  It provided a real boost for a family struggling to survive and with no resources to treat themselves to the kind of luxuries we all need to keep our spirits up.”

“For the whole team at Jigsaw, our mission is to help people who find themselves in difficulty through no fault of their own. With the continued support of others in the local community as well as the supermarkets and Rotary4foodbanks, we won’t stop striving to make life better for families in need as the winter bites.”

Rotary4foodbanks has set up a justgiving page to make it easy for people to donate.  Because the scheme is run entirely by volunteers it has no overheads.  That means every penny given goes directly to buying food at discounted prices for delivery to local foodbanks.

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

Posted in: Rotary4Foodbanks, Wirksworth

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Salvation Army Ripley Sings Rotary Club praises

Salvation Army sings Rotary Club’s praises as Ripley food bank reports surge in first-time users

Ripley Salvation Army is currently providing vital food supplies to vulnerable people every month and is expecting a surge in demand in the run up to Christmas.  Due to Covid-19 Ripley Salvation Army Food Bank, which serves all of Amber Valley, has seen a 100% increase in demand compared to before the pandemic.

The latest delivery of over 80 cases of food by Rotary4foodbanks has helped Ian Brown and the foodbank team at its headquarters in Heath Road cope with the growing demand, with many people accessing foodbank services for the first time.

“It is only with the support of schemes like Rotary4foodbanks and help from local supermarkets that we can hope to meet the growing need as Autumn approaches and more individuals and families find themselves short of money for food,” says Ian who manages the Salvation Army’s admin and finances in the town.  “Our commitment to never turning anyone away will be stretched to the limit this year,” he warns.

Rotary Club members from Amber Valley and across Derbyshire were on hand recently to deliver over 80 boxes of staple foods – coffee, tea, tinned fruit, cereals and more – to keep up stock levels.  They are working as part of a region-wide scheme – Rotary4foodbanks – which raises funds to buy food in bulk. This is then distributed free to around 50 foodbanks in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.

Before the pandemic struck, Amber Valley Rotarians had already helped to build and fit out a new food store which has proved invaluable as the Salvation Army team strives to build stocks in anticipation of the increased demand as Christmas approaches.

Covid-19 has increased the challenge for the Salvation Army in Ripley and elsewhere.  “Many of our supporters are older – most members are over 70 and have been shielding. So maintaining a food supply service has been especially difficult since March,” Ian explains.

“Many of the people we support face real personal challenges – homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction.  Others are ordinary families experiencing hardship as a result of the economic downturn.  Many are seeking support from foodbanks for the first time.  They all deserve our help.”

Local Rotarian John Stamp who works with the Rotary4foodbanks team says the story from Ripley is echoed across the East Midlands.  “There is real concern about the winter ahead and the demands that foodbanks like the Salvation Army Ripley service will face. 

“At Rotary4foodbanks we have linked up with supermarket giant Morrisons and are committed to providing a regular supply of key food items to meet the need.  We all give our time free, as willing volunteers, but we need the public to support our efforts.”

Rotary4foodbanks has set up a justgiving page to make it easy for people to donate.  Because the scheme is run entirely by volunteers it has no overheads.  That means every penny given goes directly to buying food at discounted prices for delivery to local foodbanks.

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

Posted in: Amber Valley, Rotary4Foodbanks

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Halloween Virtual Balloon Race

Wirksworth Rotary is determined to continue to support a range of good causes and charities in our local community, across the UK and around the world. Like all Rotary Clubs though, our usual fundraising activities have been very much restricted during the current pandemic, so we are looking to raise much-needed money through a Virtual Balloon Race. 

The race has a Halloween theme and starts from Dracula’s Castle on 31st October 2020. It’s 100% eco-friendly – no animals or birds are killed and there’s no litter. 

We are delighted to partner with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) in this race to help them continue their invaluable work promoting the natural world and educating and enhancing the lives of Derbyshire residents and visitors of all ages. DWT has been leading nature’s recovery across the county for over 55 years, inspiring people and communities to care and mobilising people to act, protecting and enhancing wildlife and wild places. From surveying bumblebee numbers out in the field to taking toddlers on their first ever mini-beast hunt – their work spans from conservation at its most scientific right through to a child’s first experience.

You can visit our page on the Ecoracing website at the link below to buy balloons. Each balloon costs just £3 and you can buy as many as you like. You can also buy them as gift codes to give to family and friends. It’s lots of fun and you can track the progress of your balloons throughout the race. 

https://ecoracing.co/user/page/623

All of the proceeds from the balloons sold will be split equally between Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Wirksworth Rotary.

Posted in: Wirksworth

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Hearing Ambassadors launch their website

There are simply too many clubs and members who have supported us with their skills and knowledge over the last couple of years for us to mention them by name, so we would like to dedicate our new website to Rotary District 1220 with grateful thanks for all the encouragement and practical help that you have given us.

It would not have been possible for us to get so far without the generous donations from six clubs and matched funding from a District Foundation Grant.

We are so proud to be able to launch our website at this moment which coincides with Lipreading Awareness Week (14-19 September 2020).

https://www.hearingambassadors.org

Please take a look and pass on the link to any friends and colleagues who you think might be interested. We hope that the launch of our website marks the beginning of the wider Hearing Ambassadors movement, inspired by Rotary District 1220.

If you would like to find out more about being a Hearing Ambassador, please email us on info@hearingambassadors.org

Posted in: Hearing Ambassadors

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From Boxing to Bagging – Evolve delivers 75 tons of hope to Broxtowe community

Volunteers from Evolve CIC in Broxtowe have turned from boxing to bagging as they extend their foodbank services in the fight to ensure that no-one in the district goes hungry this winter. 

Gary Bulmer unloading Rotarian Pete Wearns van

But, warns former police officer turned local hero Gary Bulmer, the demand for services looks set to increase as the winter looms.  With the backing of the new Rotary4foodbanks scheme, he calls for the public to be vigilant as the effects of the Covid pandemic continue to bite.

Gary and Evolve’s co-founder Karen Swan are now managing a team of volunteer helpers to bag and deliver food parcels from stock donated by organisations like Rotary4foodbanks, FareShare and local supermarkets.  They have provided 75 tons of food since lockdown was introduced. Currently they hand out around five tons of food every week and support over 700 vulnerable people in the community.

Bringing people together

Gary retired as a community police officer in 2017 after 30 years in the force. It was in that role that he saw the link between crime and deprivation and wanted to do something to help the community he loved. “I could see services were stretched and that what was needed was a way of bringing people together and giving them hope, friendship and purpose,” he says.

Through his policing work, he had met Nottingham City Homes’ inspirational housing manager Karen Swan who had also worked the Broxtowe patch for 13 years.  Karen shared Gary’s vision for an integrated people-centred approach to solving the challenges faced by parts of the community.  They teamed up, and the impact has been remarkable.  Gary explains:

“It started with a local lad who was being bullied.  He was a victim of crime and he lacked confidence.  I took him along to a boxing club and watched his confidence and self-esteem grow.  I could see how boxing provided a great way of engaging young people and giving them self-discipline and purpose.”

Gary gained his own boxing qualification and started a programme of youth sessions at Strelley Community Club on Helston Drive.  “Right from the start the local Rotary Club in neighbouring Wollaton was in there supporting us.  They raised funds for us to buy gloves and equipment.  As a result we provided kids with an alternative to hanging around the streets for a couple of nights a week at least, and almost immediately you could see the reduction in anti-social behaviour.”

Now the club’s oldest boxer is 98 and the project has extended beyond the boxing ring to provide craft sessions for the elderly, women’s groups meetings and Zumba classes for all.

With regular youth and community session at the Strelley Community Centre, Evolve provides a safe place for people of all ages to meet and talk. 

“Here people make friends, exchange ideas, solve problems together.  Those who perhaps didn’t have a voice, now have a say in how the community shapes up and tackles some of the issues and opportunities it faces,” says Gary. “Feeding people has also been part of that link with the community, so vital to win trust amongst people who sometimes may feel alienated.”

Covid crisis brings new challenge – and new hope

As Covid took hold, the Evolve project faced new challenges.  Meetings were suspended as lockdown was introduced. 

“Immediately the crisis struck, those who had initially come to us for help stepped up and asked how us they could help others.  Their response was so heart-warming.  That spirit of giving is a credit to the community of Broxtowe.

“FareShare had been providing food for us for some time.  When Rotary4foodbanks offered to make deliveries of pallets of staple foods – tea, coffee, tinned fruit, cereals – we were ideally placed to support the needy.  Because we are rooted in the community we know where the need is, especially amongst those too anxious, proud or independent to come forward.”

Rotary4foodbanks was set up earlier this year to meet what local Rotary clubs knew would be a growing demand for foodbank services.  Run completely by volunteers, it buys food at wholesale prices and distributes it by the pallet-load. So far it has supplied around £100,000 of staple foods to around 50 foodbank operations across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.

Both Gary and Karen worry for the mental health and resilience of vulnerable people in the community.  Alleviating that is going to be the next big challenge, they believe.  But, says Gary, not having to worry about where your next meal is coming from goes a long way to easing those fears, and the work of Rotary4foodbanks and FareShare is having a massive positive impact.

Despite winning awards for their community work, Gary and Karen shun the limelight and are modest about their achievements.  “The real heroes are the volunteers who came to us looking for support and now, in time of crisis, are out there supporting others.  We are just proud to be a part of it.”

To get involved with Evolve visit https://www.facebook.com/evolvenottinghamcic/

To donate to Rotary4foodbanks visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/rotary4foodbanks

For more information about FareShare visit https://fareshare.org.uk/

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

Posted in: Rotary4Foodbanks

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Aquaboxes making a difference in Syria

On the 18th February, 160 Aquaboxes left the Aquabox depot in Wirksworth Derbyshire, bound for Hand in Hand for Aid (HiHAD) Birmingham, and then onwards to refugee camps in Syria.

In the interim period Aquabox have maintained email contact with their HiHAD partner. Customs and other bureaucratic procedures created delays as is all too often the case, and as a result, no pictorial evidence of how Aquabox aid has been utilised was received until 27th August, but goodness it was worth the wait.

Thanks to the wonderful support for Aquabox by HiHAD, the boxes have all been distributed in refugee camps and are being used to help support the people there. Teams of aid workers carried the boxes to tents and then gave full instruction on how to correctly use and maintain the all-important water filters.

Together our aid will have reached over 160 families and has the capacity to provide safe water for drinking and washing for 1000 people.

You can support the great work of Aquabox at https://aquabox.org

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Mansfield foodbank chief warns of looming tsunami of need

A Mansfield Woodhouse foodbank has kept up with demand for food during the Covid crisis, but its volunteer manager, former policeman Keith Hadfield, warns that much worse is to come as winter approaches. 

A new lifeline of supplies from Rotary4foodbanks is playing a vital role in helping to build stocks for the tsunami of demand he expects in the coming months but, says Keith, more help is needed.

Despite closing its St Peter’s Church satellite outlet as the pandemic struck, the Sherwood Forest Foodbank has supplied over 1250kgs of food since April this year from its main base at The Stable Centre in Mansfield Woodhouse.

“Over the summer we have been less busy than expected,” he says. “During lockdown there has been all kinds of additional support for people.  I am certain that once the furlough system ends and some of the pop-up support organisations wind down, we will see a different picture of hardship.  Need will rise and support will fall.  We will be hard-pressed to cope with what we fear will be a tsunami of demand.”  It is a fear shared by the Trussell Trust of which the foodbank is a part.

Keith had planned to step down from his role as project manager of the Sherwood Forest foodbank but the arrival of the pandemic put paid to that.  He joined as a volunteer in 2013 and has headed the team of volunteers since 2017.  With many of the team aged over 70 and needing to shield, managing the demand from a growing number of hungry families in the region has proved an extra challenge.

“Mansfield District and their Housing Team have been incredibly supportive but there is a limit to what they can do.  We rely on the generosity of supermarkets and donations from local people to keep us going.  Local rotary clubs have always been supportive, but the new impetus from Rotary4foodbanks is proving a real boost.”

Rotary4foodbanks is an East Midlands and South Yorkshire initiative set up earlier this year in response to the pandemic.  Pooling funds from Rotary Clubs and money raised via its JustGiving page, the scheme buys food in bulk at wholesale prices.  With the help of a local transport firm, it distributes vital stock to around 50 foodbanks in the area.  Its second delivery to Sherwood Forest Foodbank recently was part of a programme which has seen £100,000 worth of food delivered across the region since April.

Plea for help

Keith, a passionate road biker and family man who has lived in Mansfield Woodhouse for 45 years, is keen to hear from others with the experience and time to help him run the foodbank.

“I’ve been trying to set up a system with processes in place to make managing the operation relatively straightforward.  At 66, I am keen to find others to share the load as the pressure inevitably increases with the approach of winter.  As well as having more time to play my guitar, sing in the choir and ride my road bike, it is the classic situation – I would really like to spend more time with my family!”

If you can help Keith please call 07932 452533 or email info@sherwoodforest.foodbank.org.uk

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

Posted in: Rotary4Foodbanks

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“Our Aid Will Get Through” – AQUABOX

Here in the UK, we rarely experience such physical events as earthquake, mud-slide and landslip. In Nepal, these occurrences present a regular threat to life and communities. 

One such event happened on 14th August this year in the Sindhupalchowk district. This area is characterised by narrow valleys and steep mountains. It is highly rural with woefully inadequate health services. The communities are wide-spread and heavily reliant on cultivating the poor soils typical of this hilly region.

Over many years Aquabox has developed a strong relationship with the country. It maintains a contingency supply of aid boxes in Kathmandu, ready for secure distribution, through the service of the Gurkhas, Nepal Armed Police and local Rotary clubs at times of need.

Once our aid reached the areas where it was needed, but this was by no means the end of the story. Roads were destroyed by the August landslip and communities were left isolated. 11 people died and 30+ declared missing. Houses were either destroyed or seriously damaged.

The only way to move the aid that arrived was on foot and often through dangerous and difficult terrain as illustrated by these images. But the local people met this challenge with alacrity. It is humbling to witness the efforts they were prepared to make to deliver aid to those in need. Every box hauled up the steep, crumbling pathways represented a life-line for a family, in particular by providing access to safe drinking water where none is available.

All our aid costs a significant amount to supply and distribute across the world and  all our income is contingent upon the generosity of donors

If you would like to support us and help families survive the aftermath of disaster such as this please see how you can do this on our website https://www.aquabox.org

Posted in: Aquabox

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