Lancaster charity has established urgent response fund to help local organisations deal with the Covid-19 pandemic

A new district-wide fund set up to support community organisations is helping thousands of people to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, 8th June 2020, 9:44 am
Associate vicar at St Thomas's Church, Lancaster, Rev Craig Abbott and Ark co-ordinator, Anne Carman, preparing food. Picture: Darren Andrews.

On the outbreak of Covid-19, Lancaster District CVS, a charity that has been supporting local communities for almost 50 years, quickly established The Urgent Response Fund which has so far raised around £80,000.

“LDCVS has a long history of supporting the local charity sector by administering funds so we were very proactive right from the start of the outbreak because we knew that charities were going to be called on to do a great deal of work during the pandemic,” said Yak Patel, LDCVS chief officer.

LDCVS receive new applications from organisations every week and those that have already benefitted include: The Olive Branch, West End Impact, Headway Lancaster and Morecambe Bay, Marsh Community Centre, Egg Cup, Positive Futures, Lancaster and Morecambe District Churches Debt Centre, Wise Up Workshops, Lancaster Area Search and Rescue, Barton Road Centre, More Music, Neuro Drop in Centre, St Thomas Church [The Ark], CancerCare North Lancashire and South Cumbria, Escape2Make, Stanleys Community Centre, C.H.A.T.S parent support group, St Peter's Church, SAFE and Achieve, Change and Engagement.

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Olive Branch assistant project manager, Kerry Stephens. Picture: Darren Andrews.

The Olive Branch in Lancaster received £2,000 from the Fund.

“It’s been a lifeline as the increase in the number of people we are now helping has coincided with the rising cost of food, “ said Kerry Stephens, assistant project manager. “We’ve seen about an 80% increase in enquiries and we’re now delivering around 130 food parcels.

“A number of those we help are new to us such as people who’ve lost their jobs and are waiting for their Universal Credit benefits. It’s good to be able to help everyone who needs it.”

Demand is such that The Olive Branch has moved its food store from Westbourne Road to St Thomas’s Renewal Centre and operates from there for five days a week.

West End Impact founder, Tracy Kohl with volunteers Alan and Mim Rainford. Picture: Darren Andrews.

West End Impact in Morecambe used its £1,000 grant to move vital mental health services online.

“In normal times, we provide weekly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and therapeutic art groups but as we’ve been unable to meet we’ve set up a Facebook group and weekly Zoom sessions as well as one to one phone support for about 80 people,” said Tracy Kohl, who founded West End Impact 18 years ago.

The charity has also adapted its food service and now delivers hot meals and food parcels to almost 40 homes in Morecambe and Lancaster.

The takeaway service on Sundays sees people queuing up at its Heysham Road base.

The Ark at St Thomas Church in Lancaster is another beneficiary of the Fund.

“It was fantastic to receive a £750 grant as it allowed us to extend the service we have been providing to the street homeless and people living in poor accommodation,” said Rev Craig Abbott.

For many years prior to the pandemic, The Ark provided food once a week but thanks to the grant, volunteers now cook and deliver meals twice weekly to about 30 people in Lancaster and Morecambe living in temporary accommodation during the crisis.

More than 165 individual donations to the Fund have been boosted by financial support from Lancaster City Council, NHS Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, the Francis C Scott Charitable Trust, the Eric Wright Charitable Trust, West End Morecambe Big Local, the Westminster Foundation and NFU Mutual.

LDCVS has been inundated with stories about people in high risk groups isolating at home unable to get vital resources and without family or friends to help.

“We can provide a quick turnaround of grants because we already know and have worked with many of these local organisations in the past, providing not only financial but also emotional support, “ said Yak.

In the longer term after the effects of the pandemic have subsided, LDCVS, which is based at The Cornerstone in Lancaster, has ambitions to continue running a fund which can receive donations and distribute them to local charities and voluntary organisations.

Donations to The Urgent Response Fund can be made at https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/coronavirus

Anyone with other fundraising ideas can call LDCVS on 01524 555900, email [email protected] or share them via Facebook or Twitter.

Any organisation working to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and requiring resources should visit https://lancastercvs.org.uk/funding/coronavirus/

For further information about The Urgent Response Fund, email [email protected]