By Ian Huddleston, Community Organiser
In March, the country went into lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic. This put a lot of strain on the local community of Dinnington and left a lot of residents lonely and isolated. A group of residents put out Facebook posts to assemble a team of people who could work together as a committee to try and tackle these issues to help those residents most in need.
Over the course of the first week, a small team was put together:
• Lead co-ordinator: Jane Havenhand
• Online co-ordinator: Lee Brown
• Hub manager: Darron Crookes
• Data admin: Kristie Johnson
• Entertainment manager: Chris Smith
• Grants & funding: Ian Huddleston (Rotherfed)
• Printing & media: Rob Marshall
The DCAG was set up in response to the pandemic. The Facebook group was for people in Dinnington and surrounding areas to pull together and support and help each other and our vulnerable in these difficult times. Looking to provide a hub for people to make donations of supplies and support a local kitchen to provide hot meals for people in isolation or other difficulties. This was also a place to share advice, updates and keep each other’s spirits up with some positive online interactive activities.
On 9th April, I submitted a £400 funding bid for the group from the neighbourly fund which was successful. Also, Rotherfed donated £200 from the Dinnington community organiser budget, that would have normally been spent on events in the school holidays over Easter to help create engagement in the local area, this use of budget and the early bid secured from the neighbourly fund, really helped get the group going. This was vital as groups needed quick funds to get going and funding bids, although lots of organisations that provide funding have sped up the progress of applying and receiving funding, there was still a lag time.
Reckoning that a group that had a catchment area of 13,000; we continued to look for sources of funding. On Tuesday 12th May, RotherFed secured another successful bid of £100 from Alpkit foundation for the group. This added to early funds secured meant that group had received £1700 in its first month, allowing the group to continue with the great work they were doing in helping the residents of Dinnington with food parcels. This is helping the people most in need and is showing that there is real strength in partnership work, bring together different skills and experience to make a real difference, and shows RotherFed really has a big part to play in supporting, coordinating and organising throughout the crisis.
Over the summer the group worked with various local business and supermarkets to help with delivering and donating food to residents – Tesco, Aldi, Greencore, Café Expresso, The Cutler and first stop Pizza. (Thankyou letters were sent out to all these from the committee as a way of saying thanks for their contribution to the project). The resource centre was used as a base for food parcels to be dropped and this was a really valuable hub for the community, changing to meet the needs of the community whilst itself was shut due to lockdown restrictions.
Throughout this time, the groups Facebook page had 3,200 members and over 60 volunteers, who helped with admin, delivering food parcels, moderating the Facebook group etc.
The group agreed to finish their last meals on 17th September, then signposting residents on the relevant authorities after this date. The final figures sent out were:
• 4474 Meals
• 3104 sandwiches
• 489 shopping buddies
• 509 kids gift bags
• 123 essential food parcels
• 156 Easter eggs
This is an enormous achievement and the numbers really show how much need there was in the community and how things could have looked a lot different if the group hadn’t come together like it did with different people putting their time in and using their skills to help the whole community in a time of need.
The committee had conversations about where we could go next, how we could then take this to the next stage and still be able to help our community. We all agreed that the virus is going to be with us for some time, and there was the possibility that we could go back into lockdown or face further restrictions so the group may be needed in some form again.
RotherFed put together a questionnaire for the committee and volunteers to see what they thought about the project, what they learnt from it, what they thought went right, what they thought went wrong and what their thoughts were on potentially carrying on and in what capacity. This is ongoing and will continue to get more feedback from the survey and continue to conversations with the committee Facebook group as things keep changing.
From the feedback we have got so far you can see that there is an appetite to continue supporting the community, predominantly with covid/tenant/community support and food deliveries with the organisational part feeling like a success. The challenges the group faced where things like capacity, and sheer number of people that needed help.
I think overall, despite these daily challenges, the group was outstanding in their efforts, giving up their free time to help the needs of their community and the project has been a major success in which every person taking part can be proud of.
Jane Havenhand has been given an MBE in the Queens honours list for her services to the community. Jane was the lead co-ordinator and massive part of Dinnington Coronavirus Community Action group and the brilliant work that it did for Dinnington over the lockdown period. This shows how much of an impact the action group had on the Dinnington community and how important it was for the residents.