Working in a pandemic

Today I wanted to share my experiences of working through the pandemic and running a community project. To start with it has been an honour and a privilege to support our fellow humans. As a keyworker, I have been able to do this.

We started our community project in May 2019, offering groups to vulnerable people. However, as Covid struck, this wasn;t possible and we reinvented ourselves. This began as an experiment with a rusty clothes rail and has proven to be very worthwhile, with possibly over 2000 people helped, directley and indirectly.

One lovely man comes and takes things for his neighbours and friends; curtains to put over doors, towels and even plates. Another person has said how invaluable our service has been. A homeless man came yesterday and walked out looiking really smart in a lovely new coat. We have been able to help people look and feel fgood about themselves, redistributiung unwanted goods and saving waste too.

Recycling is very close to my heart and we try to throw away as little as possible. Stained clothing may be washed and I have only ever thrown away one item which seemed to have blood on it which I felt warranted a bin. Even broken toys find new homes-one child happily took a push along toy missing a wheel. We are so often about ythe new and perfect and perhaps we just need to be a little more open to reusing slighly damaged things and upcycling. It is a new way of life and a new way of thinking. We even have people take second hand glasses which was a huge surprise to me!

People don’t just come for clothes; they like a chat and feeling part of a community. We meet outside and people can choose how much or little they want to take. This gives dignity. It is essentially a free charity shop model. People are struggling on Universal Credit and it means they can givce their families nice clothes and shoes and toys and bedding.

I feel that clothing banks are very much needed at this time. People in the UK are really battling poverty, but they don’t wear a badge to announce it (and why should they?)

Let me have your thoughts regarding this and please feel free to disagree. I am interested in people’s views from other nations in regard to this.

Thank you for reading. I wish you all a wonderful weekend X

Circle of hope

As I have been sharing recently, I have been touched by the hands of hope in our community, who have reached out to others. So today I want to discuss this in more detail.

There was an article in our local newspaper asking for help for our foodbank. And the help has literally poured in; offers of support for our befriending service, offers of donations and practical help. This to me is a circle of hope.

We have people approaching us who have nothing and people who are kindly giving items for redistribution, lovely items which can make someone’s day. And this for me is how society should be; those of us privileged to have excess, giving away to those who do not.

Redistribution is a simple concept, with far reaching consequences. It thrills me to see people visit us wearing the items they have taken from the rail. I feel that it is about offering hope, because let’s face it, it is lovely to have nice new things and many people are not able to afford charity shop proces, being barely able to afford food, as our sixty daily visitors for food parcels each Tuesday and Thursday highlight.

Today’s recipe of hope is to consider redistribution. Do we have items we do not need? Can we give them to someone else. Homeless men love rucksacks and socks and boxer shorts, because they cannot easily access washing machines. So maybe consider a Christmas box for a vulnerable person this year. Just a athought, you may like to give money to a charity. Or even set up a free clothes rail. I read of an amazing project in Glasgow, where people put coats around trees for people to take.

May we all do our part to create a circle of hope in this world X

The Isle of Thanet News article: September 4 2020 Kathy Bailes

The Community Project at Union Church in Margate has been working alongside Margate Independent Food Bank to offer a clothes bank service.

The project supports vulnerable adults in the Thanet community particularly those with learning difficulties or mental health issues. But covid-19 has meant indoor activities are currently postponed.

In the meantime project manager Melody Wimhurst has set up the clothes bank, including household goods, which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.15am to 1pm outside the church (Union Row entrance).

She said: “We also help our homeless community by putting them in touch with housing and those who can assist. We offer support in many ways and try and have a holistic approach. It isn’t just about offering the clothes, it is giving hope.

“It is all done outside, so it is safe, and we run alongside the independent food bank.

“This week we provided someone with a stroller, children’s clothes, pots and pans. Donations are needed, particularly for men’s clothes as most of those who are homeless and coming to us for clothes and food are men.”

On Thursday morning the neighbouring food bank gave out more than 60 parcels. A steady stream of people also visited the clothes bank.

Melody says she desperately needs donations, a clothes rail and volunteers who can help her sort through the clothes that are given.

The project also needs volunteers for its befriending service, aimed at helping people who are suffering poor mental health.

She said: “We do telephone befriending and socially distanced walks together to help isolated and vulnerable people.”

Referrals for the befriending service are made through agencies such as Porchlight.

Donations can be made to the clothes bank during its opening hours.