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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

To donate to Rotary4foodbanks visit

For more information about FareShare visit

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

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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

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

Posted in: Aquabox

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It is official: WHO has declared the Africa region polio free

Today, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa region, has officially certified free from wild poliovirus, signifying a major milestone in the battle to eradicate the disease worldwide.

This certification has come four years after Nigeria, the last polio-endemic country in Africa, recorded its final case of wild polio and is an incredible public health achievement for Rotary members, the African region, and Rotary’s partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

This progress is the result of a decades-long effort across the 47 countries which make up the WHO’s African region and now means that five of the six WHO regions, which represent 90% of the world’s population, will be free of polio.

Efforts to get to this momentous stage have involved millions of health workers traveling by foot, boat, bike and bus to reach children, innovative strategies to vaccinate those living among conflict and insecurity, and a huge disease surveillance network to test cases of paralysis and check sewage for the virus.

In 1996, Rotary and our partners joined with Nelson Mandela to jumpstart Africa’s commitment to polio eradication. Since then, 9 billion doses of oral polio vaccine have been provided, averting an estimated 1.8 million cases of wild poliovirus on the continent.

Rotary members have played an invaluable role in the effort to rid the African region of wild polio.

By raising funds for polio eradication, advocating with world governments and national and local leaders, and raising awareness, Rotarians have contributed nearly US $890 million to conquer polio in the region.

Despite this incredible public health milestone, the job to fully rid the world of polio goes on, as the virus continues to circulate in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Vaccination programmes must continue to reach every last child and strengthen routine immunisation to keep immunity levels high, so the virus does not return to Africa.

Rotary members across Great Britain and Ireland remain committed to making the final, challenging steps towards a polio free world a reality.

Events will be taking place across the world on 24th October, to mark annual World Polio Day.

Our impact starts with you.

You can help make our pledge to rid the world of polio reality by donating to our End Polio Now campaign. Every donation to Rotary will be trebled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, so every £1 will become £3.

You can also get involved with our Purple4Polio activities; fun fundraising ideas to bring your community together while protecting children around the world.

If you already have an event planned in the to celebrate World Polio Day, or the certification of a polio-free Africa region, let us know! Please register your events using this online form so they can be added them to our event map.

Posted in: Foundation, Polio

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Former drug addict comes clean to help feed the hungry through Covid

Former drug addict Mick Hanley has turned his life around.  He is now a key member of the Sheffield S6 team working tirelessly to feed the hungry in Sheffield.  Supporting others in dire straits is helping him keep on the ‘straight and narrow’.  He talks about his life, and how surrounding himself with positive people has been one of the cornerstones of his recovery.

Mick Hanley is 52, happily married and lives with his wife Julie in Stocksbridge. He spends his days helping others.  But from the age of 13, for 25 years, Mick was a drug abuser, addicted to alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine.  His future looked bleak.

By his early 20s, Mick’s life had fallen apart and for eight years he lived on the streets in the north of England.

“It was a constant fight for survival,” he says. “Every day I lived in fear of attack, always watching my back, just existing from one day to the next.  I lived a chaotic existence with the focus on trying to stay warm, stay fed and find somewhere safe to sleep. It was a battle just to stay alive.”

It was Bolton drugs worker, Phil, who helped turn Mick’s life around.  “Without Phil I wouldn’t be here to tell my story,” he says.  Back in 2008, Phil encouraged Mick who was living in hostels then, to go on a detox programme and arranged for him to spend a month in a rehab centre in Manchester.  He moved on to Storth Oaks in Sheffield where he spend eight months. “There were relapses, but thanks to the support of Phil and the team there I started to see the potential for a better life.”

In 2009, while volunteering in the kitchens at The Cathedral Archer Project in the city Mick met assistant cook, Julie.  They married in 2015 and Mick now has a loving family – four step children and four step grandchildren.

A part-time church caretaker, he also works for four days each week distributing food to foodbanks from the Sheffield S6 warehouse. As he helps unload another pallet of food delivered by the South Yorkshire charity programme, Rotary4foodbanks, he says: “It makes me so proud to be with a team of such wonderful people. I am honoured to be a part of it.  I love every minute of the work I do.”

Demand for services has rocketed since the pandemic hit.  Mick says the supplies donated by Rotary4foodbanks have provided a lifeline during lockdown. The R4FB group, run by Rotarians, buys food at wholesale prices and distributes it free to organisations like Sheffield S6 who in turn deliver it to foodbanks across the region. 

Mick expects the problem of hunger in the city to get worse in the coming months.

“I have experienced first-hand the real suffering which hardship and hunger can bring to individuals and families.  I am determined, along with others in the team, to make sure that no-one in our region goes hungry this Autumn and Winter.  I implore anyone who can, to give money and time to support our efforts.”

And what advice would he give to others who find themselves in the position he was in in his teens and twenties?  “Don’t be in denial. Admit you have a problem.  Most importantly, surround yourself with positive people.  Then look to help others.  It is so life-affirming,” he says.

Mick works for Sheffield S6 which is part of the Trussell Trust. 

Rotary4foodbanks is run entirely by unpaid volunteers.  It supplies food to over 50 foodbanks across South Yorkshire and the East Midlands and has a just giving page for those wanting to support its work.

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

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Mansfield high-flyer at heart of foodbank charity scheme

A sky-diving, wing-walking Mansfield woman has found herself at the heart of a major £100,000 charity initiative to keep foodbanks stocked across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.

28 year old Lauren Warner, an international transport planner at Mansfield’s Taylor’s Transport, has her work cut out.  She is at the centre of operations for Rotary4foodbanks which is providing vital supplies to over 50 foodbanks in the region.  Now, with supermarket giant Morrisons linking to the ground-breaking scheme, she is set to get even busier.

Since the launch of Rotary4foodbanks in April this year, Taylor’s has been on board, donating space, staff and vehicles to manage the stocks which the Rotary team has been buying in bulk for foodbanks.  Because Rotary4foodbanks buys at wholesale prices, foodbanks get even greater value from public cash donations at a time when demand for their services is doubling too.

Says Lauren, “I have not been furloughed throughout the covid crisis and was only too happy to take on the extra work involved in managing the distribution of food to foodbanks.  At Taylor’s, we’ve always tried to give back to the community and this is such a practical way of using our expertise to meet a real need.”

Rotary4foodbanks, which is already distributing £100,000 worth of staple foods like tea coffee, cereals and tinned fruit, now works with supermarket giant Morrisons’ bulk buy scheme, set up specifically to help charities.  Lauren was on hand to receive the first Morrisons delivery of nearly 28,000 items of food which recently arrived at Taylors Huthwaite distribution centre.

Lauren, who lives with her partner in Mansfield, is no stranger to charity endeavours.  Having already completed a sky-dive in support of the John Eastwood Hospice in Sutton in Ashfield where her grandfather spent his final days, she is planning a wing-walk early next year to raise funds for research into endometriosis.

“Right now though,” she says, “my focus is on working with Rotary4foodbanks to ensure that no-one goes hungry as the post-Covid recession hits more and more families in our region.”

Eventually, Rotary4foodbanks hopes that the government will give financial backing to grow the scheme nationally.  John Cavey, project leader, explains: “Until then we are relying on product donations from food sector companies and cash funding from other thriving businesses.  And of course, we welcome donations from the always generous great British public.  To help, we have set up a just giving page, where people can add value by gift aiding their donations.

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

Posted in: Rotary4Foodbanks

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