COMMUNITY SPIRIT: COMMUNITY ACTION SUFFOLK

The inspiring local businesses giving back to their communities Community Action Suffolk (CAS) exists to ensure the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector and its volunteers, are supported, safe and sustainable, and that its communities are active and resilient.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine Summer/Autumn 2020

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Community Spirit 

The VCSE sector in Suffolk has never been in more need than in the current climate of national crisis, and as a result, CAS has seen a rapid rise in the need for support. Coupled with this, there has also been an incredible rise in the generosity, kindness and willingness of local small businesses to adapt, change, and in many cases set aside what they usually do, to help their local communities respond to the pandemic and deliver essential services. 

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Suffolk’s small businesses have played their part in abundance. Whether it is a public house, usually serving a cold glass of beer or hot plate of food to paying customers, and now providing food deliveries to the vulnerable members of a community, or restaurants providing unused food from their freezers, to a pop-up food bank. 

Much of CAS’s work in recent weeks has been facilitating and supporting the local response to ensure our county’s self-isolating, high risk, and/or shielding members have access to safe and responsible services and volunteers that can help. Almost every single parish in the county now has some form of emergency response group or good neighbour scheme, and over 2000 volunteers have registered to give their time to support others through the ‘Home But Not Alone’ campaign. 

Here are just a few stories of the great work going on across the county. 

The Oyster Inn, Butley 

At the start of the pandemic an initiative took shape between the reformed Teapot Project and the Oyster Inn, Butley. Their aim…to stop food waste and feed those in need healthy meals. 

Landlady, Jane Palmer, ensured that anyone in need was able to access their meals service, with deliveries not just reaching the local area and Deben Peninsula, but also further afield in Felixstowe and Ipswich. Their pub-based village shop was also reinstated with deliveries made to local residents unable to venture out. 

By mid-April, the team were averaging around 45 freshly prepared meals a day – all heading to those in need – out of the pub’s kitchen, and all made from surplus food items and the Woodbridge Greengrocers end of day stock donated by local businesses. theoysterinnbutley.co.uk

Mutual Media 

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During lockdown, the team at Mutual Media UK Ltd supported CAS and other local Suffolk voluntary and community organisations, with complimentary design and print services. Design Director, Lynn Brady, put together various leaflets and marketing material, to create real impact and communicate the key messages and essential information to the local community.

Matilda Rose nail and beauty salon 

Jamie Nunn, who runs the Matilda Rose nail and beauty salon in Withersfield Road, Haverhill, has been inundated with volunteers since he set up the Matilda Rose Action Squad in March. 

“Haverhill is a great place with a great sense of community. We have lots of amazing people who are all happy to help people. This whole project wouldn’t be possible without them. If one good thing comes from this, it will be that people will put down the computer and the mobile phone and actually start checking in on people. It’s hugely important to look at what’s going on around you” Jamie said. 

As well as collecting people’s food and medicine, the group also phones 24 people a week who are lonely, offering a voice to speak to as well as checking if they need any other support. The Action Squad has its own Facebook group and is one of nearly 400 community groups and volunteers that is working with West Suffolk Council to support people who are vulnerable. 

Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw 

Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw set out to help people who were lonely but is now working with West Suffolk Council to get supplies to the vulnerable during COVID-19. 

The Rickshaw project, which relies on volunteers, was set up in 2018 after receiving locality budget support from Bury St Edmunds Town councillors and members of West Suffolk Council to help it take people who were stuck indoors and isolated due to limited mobility, get out to see the town and people. 

Since lockdown however, it has been helping people who are shielding or self-isolating – including referrals from the Home But Not Alone service – collecting and delivering food and medical supplies to their doorsteps.

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McColls, Hardwick, Bury St Edmunds 

Darren Ward, Store Manager at McColls in Hardwick, Bury St Edmunds has been praised by local residents for going the extra mile during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

McColls implemented a COVID-Safe policy in all stores ensuring as many people in the local community have access to essentials in these unprecedented times. Through setting up an online payment system and delivery service, Mr Ward and his staff have been able to help vulnerable individuals and families. The delivery system has been enhanced by local community volunteer support and other networks including the Bury Rickshaw.

EJ Pearce Ltd 

CAS also runs Suffolk ProHelp, a network of local businesses providing all sorts of help, support and guidance to the VCSE sector free of charge. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the network has been working harder than ever to ensure professional support and services are available to community groups and organisations. 

Back in May, Elizabeth Pearce of EJ Pearce Ltd was keen to make sure that those organisations providing support were also looking to the future and planning for the tough times ahead. So, she provided a free webinar to the sector on the CAS website. 

Elizabeth said “Suffolk ProHelp has helped me to develop the best way to offer my services. I realised that many charities were facing some fairly serious hurdles courtesy of COVID-19 and that I could help them by sharing my experiences and some of the tools I developed.” ejplimited.co.uk

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Hannah Reid is Director of Innovation & Business Development at Community Action Suffolk. For more information E: hannah.reid@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk or visit communityactionsuffolk.org.ukTwitter:@CASuffolk

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