Lockdown – looking back, looking forward
It’s now been ten weeks since the lock down began. It’s been ten weeks of frustration, hard work and ten weeks of seeing the very best of our community heroes who have worked unceasingly without thought for themselves. We owe them a debt of gratitude which will be hard to repay. There are the NHS, care home staff, delivery drivers, bus drivers etc who are all going that extra mile! Without them I dread to think what would have happened!
West Bromwich Community church which is the operational base for the West Bromwich Food Bank was closed in March as were all other churches and places of worship. We are allowed to use it for the food bank. As we look around the church as we work, we come to realise that it does not resemble a place of worship, with the chairs set out ready to receive its congregation each Sunday! It now resembles a food warehouse, with food everywhere! We have been blown away at times to see the generosity of those who have donated much needed supplies. We think often of the local businesses who although forced to close have donated food stocks at great cost to themselves. They are too many to mention here but our food bank team really do appreciated each and every donation.
I think especially of the anonymous lady who would normally donate via her church. Because she could not do that, she sent us a cheque for £100 so that we could use it for food. The West Bromwich Rotary club and Hateley Heath & Stone Cross Big Local have also donated finance, specifically to purchase food. We also received a grant of £500 from the Tesco Covid Response Fund (which we have already spent!). The generosity displayed by so many has been truly awesome. We have also built on our strong partnership with Sandwell Council who have been literally magnificent during the ongoing crisis.
At this point, I would like to say a big thank you and also pay tribute to our amazing volunteer team at the food bank. Under guidance given by our church headquarters we are only allowed to have five people in the church at any one time (socially distanced of course!). Our team have willingly given of their time to make sure that the most vulnerable in our community are supported. They have unloaded, sorted and packed mountains of food. It has been hard work but they have done it all with a smile on their faces! We also operate a delivery system where clients are self isolating and cannot leave their homes. Our volunteer drivers have discovered parts of Sandwell they never knew existed. It is very true to say that without these volunteers we would struggle to maintain our service. I must also thank those volunteers who prior to the outbreak had no connection with the church or food bank, but have contacted us to offer their services when necessary. The whole ten weeks lock down has been a triumphant exercise in good will, hard work and a determination to support as many people as we can.
As we begin to emerge slowly from the lock down we are spending time thinking of what will happen in the future. We have no idea at the present as to what will happen and that makes any strategic planning very very difficult. At the moment we have to take things on a day to day basis. We never know even in normal times what will happen at the food bank, how many we will support and whether we will have enough food to feed everyone who comes knocking at our door. Pre lock down, we used to run a drop in centre, where anyone could come in, have light refreshments and chat to each other and our volunteers. It was a vital resource and one which |I know is greatly missed. We want to commence that again as soon as we can, but as social distancing measures will I think, be with us for some time, it’s very difficult to plan for.
Our team of volunteers promise you that we will do everything we can to continue the vital support service we offer. We are not just here for the lock down!
Stay safe, and if I am allowed to say it, God bless you all!