‘Letchworth is united during the coronavirus pandemic’

PUBLISHED: 11:16 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:16 16 June 2020

The Salvation Army is acting as a food distribution hub for the town. Picture: Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is acting as a food distribution hub for the town. Picture: Salvation Army

Archant

In Letchworth there has been an incredible outpouring of support from groups, clubs and charities who have come together to help those impacted by COVID-19.

More than 1726 volunteer hours have been clocked by the Community Response Team. Picture: Heritage FoundationMore than 1726 volunteer hours have been clocked by the Community Response Team. Picture: Heritage Foundation

Over the last two months, the Heritage Foundation has been working with these organisations to identify the level of need and create a working partnership across the town.

I visited some of the town’s amazing volunteer groups for a first-hand look:

• Salvation Army

Based near Letchworth town centre, the Salvation Army is acting as a food distribution hub for the town. Repurposing donated food packages and gifts from supermarkets, they make full and healthy parcels for distribution either directly to their parishioners, or to those who have been referred from a range of organisations including housing associations, the job centre and Citizens Advice.

The Best Before Cafe is reopening on Wednesday (June 17) with social distancing measures in place. Picture: Best Before CafeThe Best Before Cafe is reopening on Wednesday (June 17) with social distancing measures in place. Picture: Best Before Cafe

Food is donated and packaged that day, then sent to families who either cannot get out or have fallen on tough times. They carefully create parcels with the size of family and diet in mind.

• Best Before Cafe

An initiative supported by the Heritage Foundation’s Grants Programme, the Best Before Cafe – at Mrs Howard Memorial Hall – has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2018.

The cafe has adapted to the COVID-19 emergency by making food deliveries to those in need, and sending surplus food from local supermarkets to local churches and other organisations.

Having to ramp up their efforts meant the group needed money to purchase a new van to make their deliveries!

On my evening out delivering with the Best Before Cafe, I met with a former customer of the cafe, Megan. She spoke to me about how amazing the service is and how much she misses the cafe being open.

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Megan said: “I have seen the cafe go from strength to strength and even moving to a larger venue. I love it there because everyone at the cafe is friendly, they have helped me with so much over the years and it is great to meet new people from the area. Since it has had to shut as a cafe, I have really missed the lovely cups of tea they make.”

• Kings Community Church

The Kings Community Church takes deliveries from the Best Before Cafe and donations from the district council, which are then redistributed to the community. Due to the unpredictable nature of these donations, the volunteers at Kings Community have come up with fun recipes for people to try out.

Christine Wheatley, one of the brilliant volunteers, said: “We have been picking food up from Hitchin Food Hub to give out as well to make sure no food goes to waste as this is a tough time – but due to food poverty nothing should be wasted or thrown away.”

The Heritage Foundation also counts Kings Community Church as one of our COVID-19 grant’s biggest successes, as the financial help they received has meant they can purchase washing products to distribute to the most vulnerable people in Letchworth.

After visiting these groups, I spoke to my colleague Alastair Stewart, Head of Grants, Partnerships & Community Services, about how the Foundation has responded to the COVID-19 emergency.

Alastair said: “Our response was to set up a dedicated Community Response Team and work with partners to help the most vulnerable residents across Letchworth. The vision was to bring together groups in Letchworth to mobilise and work together for the community.

“There is such a varied balance of groups and organisations that can help residents, and we felt we were well placed to bring them together and assist where needed. We wanted to help those experiencing food poverty and to find out who was already receiving support.

“For example, due to social distancing measures, the food bank had to close, but a partnership was created with local groups to help Letchworth run similar services for those in need.

“The partnership we created has also been able to distribute Easter eggs to cheer up families and maintain some normality. They have given books to those making food parcels – to help people keep them mentally active – and helped distribute 500 hand sanitisers made by Letchworth-based Auto Glym.

“Our town is working collaboratively to ensure those in need do not go without. It is not just the groups listed above that are going above and beyond.

“We have seen an outpouring of support from groups and individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to help and volunteer to a worthy cause. We truly are Letchworth United.”

If you are in need of any assistance, please contact the Foundation’s Community Response Team on 01462 530360, or email support@letchworth.com


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