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Church volunteers deliver food parcels to vulnerable in Finchley Road and Frognal

PUBLISHED: 17:21 19 November 2020 | UPDATED: 18:07 19 November 2020

The team of volunteers including: Helen Spiby-Vann, Jacquee Ferre, Viola Gabrielli, Anne Marie O'Sullivan and Jane Ochieng. Picture: Polly Hancock

The team of volunteers including: Helen Spiby-Vann, Jacquee Ferre, Viola Gabrielli, Anne Marie O'Sullivan and Jane Ochieng. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Volunteers and church members are delivering food parcels to the most vulnerable around Finchley Road and Frognal during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Volunteer Helen Spiby-Vann hands over a packed bag to customer Robert Caruthers. Picture: Polly HancockVolunteer Helen Spiby-Vann hands over a packed bag to customer Robert Caruthers. Picture: Polly Hancock

A team of 10 helpers from London Community Church, based at the O2 Centre in Finchley Road, have packaged food parcels from the cafe Streets Coffee - run by the church - to elderly and isolated residents around the area.

The weekly project, which takes place every Wednesday between 12.30-3.30pm, has continued throughout the second lockdown having started in July. The church and cafe has been closed since March but volunteers have continued to support their neighbourhood with deliveries of fresh fruit, vegetables and bread.

Helper Anne Marie O’Sullivan, who has lived locally to Finchley Road for 16 years, told the Ham&High: “It’s great because these local people, especially the elderly, they’re just delighted to have someone to chat to.

“You could say ‘how is a small bag of food going to help?’ But it really does contribute.

“During these crazy times, people like to socialise and have a chat more than ever.

“We humans were made for social contact and interaction, and social isolation is extremely damaging for people’s mental health.

“So we’re providing a vital service during these times to help out our community.”

The project has come together with funding and food from London Community Church, plus donations from JW3 community centre, food charity FareShare, and the non-profit Community Response Kitchen.

Streets Coffee, 289 Finchley Road, where volunteers ack and distribute a weekly food parcel to vulnerable members of the community. Picture: Polly HancockStreets Coffee, 289 Finchley Road, where volunteers ack and distribute a weekly food parcel to vulnerable members of the community. Picture: Polly Hancock

Parcels are delivered to around 60 residents. People in need are referred through the church or by word of mouth in the local area.

Volunteer Jacquee Ferre said: “A lot of people we deliver to are stuck at home. They don’t want to go out, they’re frightened to go out, so we go to them.

“It’s not just about giving them the bags, we’re there to have a chat with them and make sure they’re ok. I think that’s really important.”

Jane Ochieng moved to the Finchley Road area from Kenya in January. She told this newspaper: “I was in lockdown wondering how I could volunteer and help out people in need.

“Then I heard about this project and I had to become a part of it as I saw how it was touching so many people’s lives.

“It’s great and there’s a real sense of community.”

You may also want to watch:

As London Community Church is closed during the pandemic, members have got together for prayers over Zoom.

The team of volunteers including: Helen Spiby-Vann, Jacquee Ferre, Viola Gabrielli, Anne Marie O'Sullivan and Jane Ochieng. Picture: Polly HancockThe team of volunteers including: Helen Spiby-Vann, Jacquee Ferre, Viola Gabrielli, Anne Marie O'Sullivan and Jane Ochieng. Picture: Polly Hancock

Their Wednesday volunteering, meanwhile, has kept them connected and tuned in to the community’s needs.

Jacquee said: “Like many of us during lockdown, the only time I meet people, apart from my immediate family, is when I come here to volunteer.

“I think that’s really been good for us all, to have a place where we meet up to do this volunteer work.”

Helen Spiby-Vann, who has coordinated the scheme, said: “Personally, as a volunteer, I feel as if I get more back from giving.

“We get here early and get everything ready, we just love it. It’s part of connecting with the community.

“Volunteers give a little time every week and we offer a place to pop by and see a friendly face.

“Some of our clients drop round to collect, and others who can’t go out much - older people, carers, families and the vulnerable - they receive their parcels at home.

“We are trying to meet all kinds of local food needs for our community while conforming to Covid-19 restrictions.”

Helper Helen Spiby-Vann with a cart of parcels. Picture: Polly HancockHelper Helen Spiby-Vann with a cart of parcels. Picture: Polly Hancock

At the start of the first national lockdown, thank you gift bags were given by the volunteers to carers and community workers, including at Spring Grove care home in Finchley Road and the London Irish Centre in Camden Square.

As the food parcel project has grown, so too has the number of residents signing up.

Now, plans have been drawn up to possibly extend the scheme to a second day during the week - if required.

“We’re ready now and we’re mobilised,” Helen said.

“As we’re in another round of lockdown, we’ve already established relationships and connections with people from before, so they know we’re here for them every week, and it’s unconditional.

“There’s a real community spirit.”

To sign up to the food parcel scheme email food@londonchurch.org or call 07734 059 097.

For more information on London Community Church click here.


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