Housing association volunteers boost community response to Covid-19

Organisations in Stafford providing support for vulnerable members of the community during the coronavirus outbreak have received a welcome boost thanks to employees from the area’s leading provider of affordable homes.

Gavin McAlister, Community Engagement Advisor at Stafford and Rural Homes – part of Housing Plus Group – is one of many of the housing association’s team engaged in community volunteering and recently completed his first shifts as a volunteer delivery driver for the foodbank at Rising Brook Community Church.

He’s also been putting his professional skills to good use by helping the County Stores social supermarket and foodbank successfully apply for a £1000 emergency grant from The Community Foundation for Staffordshire.

“These are testing times for everyone and it’s important we all pull together to get through this crisis,” Gavin said.

“By allowing me to work flexibly to help the foodbank, SARH is once again showing its ongoing commitment to the communities it serves and I’m sure a number of colleagues will also be chipping in during the weeks ahead.

“It’s been a pleasure to help the foodbank with its work ‘on the ground’ and behind the scenes we’ll also be helping County Stores, which also operates a foodbank alongside its social supermarket activities, and other community organisations to access available support.”

In response to the Covid-19 restrictions and in partnership with Stafford Borough Council, the foodbank at the church has expanded its operations to cover a wider area, and volunteers are needed to help get parcels of food and essential household items to those most in need.

Liz Dipple, Director of Chaplaincy at Rising Brook Church, commented: “While we’ve had no shortage of volunteers coming forward with offers of help, Gavin’s efforts have been particularly welcome as he knows the area well and already has strong connections with people in the community.

“His support has also given us the chance to strengthen our links with SARH, an organisation which shares our values when it comes to helping the community.

Since the onset of the coronavirus restrictions the church has been closed and the space used as a storage and distribution centre, with Rising Brook joining forces with Signposts foodbank in nearby Highfields.

Although it now has enough volunteers to manage deliveries of food parcels, shopping for vulnerable people and the collection of prescriptions, it is still in need of food donations which can be made at collection points across the area. Cash donations can be made at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1014492

Liz and her team would also like to hear from anyone in need of help and they can be contacted on 01785 214750.

“I’d like to thank Gavin and all the other volunteers for their fantastic practical help and organisations such as SARH for their general support which is enabling us to continue our vital work,” Liz said.

Jan Goode, Group Neighbourhoods Director at Housing Plus added: “The spirit shown by Gavin, and other members of the team volunteering to help others during these difficult times, is certainly in keeping with our vision to make a positive difference to homes, lives and communities.

“As a values based organisation, we’re delighted that members of our team are so committed to helping others and we’ll support them however we can.”