This is a blog that was recently written by a volunteer describing their personal experience after they joined us for a community delivery run in one of our local neighborhoods.
Yesterday I witnessed true community spirit and human kindness when I joined a team of volunteers who are working so hard to deliver free hot meals to vulnerable people within their neighborhood, Barton-under-Needwood.
Initially I was a little daunted by the thought of leaving self-isolation to join the team, but I was reassured as soon as I arrived with clear instruction on how to conduct this role. This started with parking the car in a designated place and then I was immediately greeted at distance from the door of the Three Horseshoes. This greeting was a relief as I didn’t really know what to do, and the directions I was given were clear. My temperature was taken and then I was provided with disposable gloves and a mask before entering the building.
When I walked into the pub, which just doesn’t sound right, I was even told where to stand and again reassured by clear direction. I entered the kitchens where the hot meals were being prepared and the chef, Dan. Holly, a kitchen assistance volunteer, was timing and checking the quality and temperature of the meals before serving into boxes for dispatch.
The whole process was like a military operation. The temperature of the food was again taken and then a timescale was allocated to each individual box to ensure that it would arrive safely, and warm, to the recipient. This group of volunteers made up of employees from the Three Horseshoes pub and Client-Pharma Ltd who genuinely want to make a difference and help in any way they can.
Once the takeaway boxes were given the pass from the chef, they were then carefully loaded into hot boxes in labelled batches and dispatched from the kitchen by two teams of people. The closest neighbours were delivered first and then they returned to collect and dispatch their second batch. As I looked down the orderly list of names, addresses and how many meals, it was clear that most of these people who would be visited, lived alone.
I was allocated a car to which again, I was instructed very clearly on what to do when in the car and when we arrived at the destinations. Within minutes we arrived at the first address the labelled meal was taken out of the box and taken to the door. Almost every person we visited were patiently waiting at the window of their home. The first thing that hit me was their relief to see someone that they expected at a set time. The food was left either on a table or porch that was ready to receive the box. Masked and with clean gloves, the delivery person stood back and passed a few words with everyone asking if they needed anything else.
This was the point when the military operation turned into a humanitarian operation. It was so heart-warming to see this with my own eyes. The delivery team also delivered hand-made cards from well wishes of local school children whom had created beautiful messages for people finding themselves in isolation. One lady cried as she received it and others immediately placed these on their windowsills to show their gratitude.
Gary, (CEO and Project Lead) from Client-Pharma said; “For most of these people we are their only personal contact all day, even though they have never seen my face because of the masks. Over the last few days we have built up trust with them and pass a few words of encouragement to each other. I have grown really fond of every single person I have visited, and this has made me even more determined to help for as long as we are needed.
“We are now trying to supply an even greater number due to the demanding times we are in and the reaction is incredible, the heart-warming reaction is worth it, they deserve this support and to know that they have not been forgotten.”
I had the pleasure of chatting to one lady who is 90 years old and her joy of seeing someone was clear, I think she would have chatted all night. She said; “I don’t have the internet, but my sister phoned me after she had seen something offering support for people like me. My sister then phoned Dave at the pub and the team to ask if I qualified. I couldn’t believe this kind of thing would be available., I’m so grateful. I haven’t been out of the house for more than two-weeks already. This has made all the difference to me, now I don’t feel like I am on my own. I don’t like to bother people to be honest. Now I look forward to seeing Gary every day for a few minutes then go and enjoy my meal. It’s amazing that they are doing this. Thank you all so much, and I would ask that if you know anyone else who doesn’t like to ask, don’t be afraid, just ask.”
Word seems to have spread really quickly around this little village, the team of volunteers now visit more than 38 houses and three people are over 100 years old. The Three Horseshoes pub landlord Dave said; “Our community really needs us right now. We are all well and able to help so it’s the least we can do. I have been landlord here for more than 10 years and my community has supported me. This is my chance to offer what little help I can.
“Even though we don’t know how long we will have to do this, the last few days has made me more determined to carry on as long as people need us. The media has also really helped us to spread the word as most people don’t know how to ask or may be too scared to contact us. We posted leaflets out last week and now we are starting to see the numbers rise, and we are expecting many more over the next few weeks.”
Each time a delivery is made, every person is asked if they need anything else at all, and the car also had a stack of milk and eggs. This team not only deliver an essential hot meal, which smelt delicious, they will also go to the shops to fetch anything else they need.
Neil, operations manager of Client-Pharma and volunteer, did his first shift on this day and he was moved by the reactions from people he met today; “When you see these community groups on the TV it feels like it’s not real, we are all coming to terms with this change in the way our society has been affected by this global outbreak. But when you are out there meeting people who have been in isolation for so long makes it real. The first thing I noticed was their smile and that will stay with me for so long. One guy said to me from his window, ‘I don’t know what I would do without the kindness of people like you, thank you so much’. This humbled me greatly. After tonight I will do this every day if I’m needed.”
Holly who works as a server at the Three Horseshoes is one of the delivery team and at the end of this shift she added; “If every person can make a difference to one more person this kindness spreads. We are able to help and for that I am grateful, but it’s not about our volunteers, it’s about the people who need us the most – it could be any of us one day.”
Requests for additional essential items are being paid for by donations from the community as word spreads. The food is being paid for by Client-Pharma, that has an office in Burton-upon-Trent. Resources to prepare the food is provided for by the Three Horseshoes with cutlery, packaging and boxes donated by local businessman David Oates who owns Celebration Packaging.