We’ve never met in person: Spirit of Djembe and Partners With Industry, two not-for-profits supported during a turbulent year

In March 2020, life as we knew it changed dramatically. As news of Covid-19 became increasingly concerning, Dudley CVS made the decision to suspend face-to-face meetings and we were faced with the task of pivoting to working remotely and holding virtual meetings, on top of adapting our work to support the community response to the pandemic.

I love my job. Every week is different. But a massive chunk of my time, perhaps 40%-50% of it, is spent in some form of face-to-face meeting. Whether it’s meeting groups and supporting them with setting up, planning, funding bids and the like, giving training, holding drop in sessions in cafes around the borough with Eileen, meeting with colleagues to cook up new ways to support the sector and at conferences.

In March 2020 all of that changed. How would we continue to support groups and help with the huge-scale efforts to keep those shielding or isolating connected?

Looking back into the whirlwind of that time from a much calmer vantage point, we moved to online support very quickly. We supported groups by email, phone and video meeting (first with Skype and then with Zoom and Teams!), learning as we went and supporting colleagues as well as groups with using online platforms. We offered drop ins, training events, networking meetings, one-to-one support and so many people and groups connected with us, many with a renewed eagerness to work together.

I’m amazed to learn that I supported 90 groups last year, giving support and guidance on the usual things like setting up, planning, community asset transfer and fundraising, and on new things like thinking through Covid-19 procedures and holding virtual AGMs, even helping to run a few! And I’ve helped people to set up not-for-profits without ever meeting them face-to-face. Sprit of Djembe and Partners With Industry are two very different not-for-profits that set formalised during the year.

Spirit of Djembe

Spirit of Djembe preparing to play in Mary Stevens Park in the summer before lockdown

Spirit of Djembe is an African drumming group based in Stourbridge. Their founder, Faith, got in touch with me to talk about formalising as a small not-for-profit with a constitution, something that they could work on while they were unable to get together for rehearsals and drumming sessions. Over a couple of months, I talked Faith through the process, introduced her to a simple constitution that would allow the group to open a bank account and fundraise in its own name, and supported Faith to engage with members in a way that involved them in the process and spread the leadership.

This work culminated in a Zoom meeting where I met some of the members of Spirit of Djembe, one of the loveliest meetings I’ve been involved in over the course of the pandemic. What struck me most about this welcoming group, was how members were so supportive of one another. Although clearly missing coming together face-to-face, they’d made an effort to come together socially on Zoom, and even worked out a way to rehearse their drumming online. Everyone made me feel so welcome. I know constitutions don’t get many people excited and engaged, but as I talked them through their draft, answered questions and made changes they wanted for their group, I felt that everyone was participating. At the meeting, I also helped them appoint their first committee and talked to the members about the roles and responsibilities of the committee. I left the meeting feeling that the group was really well organised and I hoped they would be able to get together to do what they love soon.

Fast forward a few months later and I’ve given the group some guidance around data protection principles and some pointers on insurance as Faith told me they have their first booking since the first lockdown began!

And if you’re looking for something new to do as restrictions ease, if you’d like to meet a welcoming and supportive group of people and learn something new, then now might be a good time to join Spirit of Djembe. If you’re interested in joining, you can call Faith on 07526 261250.

I do hope that as restrictions ease, Spirit of Djembe goes from strength to strength!

Partners With Industry CIC

Back in October, Partners With Industry CIC existed only as an idea of its founder Richard. Richard’s background was in automation and robotics and he wanted to set up an organisation that focused on equipping people who were unemployed or wanted to retrain with the skills required for jobs in the modern automated working environment of the future. Richard also wanted this work to benefit people with learning disabilities and the training would go from reskilling complete beginners to learn new skills to advanced skills to help existing engineers get back into the workplace.

I offered Richard a virtual meeting to have an initial chat about the possible routes available in our sector and the types of rules and regulations a not-for-profit would be subject to, and to learn more about Richard’s vision. At our meeting, I was really pleased to learn that Richard had started planning and had made links with Dudley College, West Midlands Combined Authority and Dudley Business First. Richard also told me that he was particularly interested in helping people living with dyslexia and autism to train and to have better opportunities to get into the industry. This seemed quite compatible with being a social enterprise, which is a business set up for social purposes.

I talked Richard through a resource which shows the similarities and differences between a charity, a social enterprise and a profit-making business/sole trader and the extra rules and expectations associated with being a not-for-profit. Richard was interested in learning more about social enterprise models; it felt like the CIC might be a good fit for the new organisation, which would allow it to pursue social aims for the benefit of the community and raise income in a range of ways, such as trading.

I gave Richard some guidance about CICs and directed him to some great resources provided by the CIC Regulator and encouraged him to look at examples of social enterprises provided by organisations like Social Enterprise UK and was on hand to talk through ideas that Richard was testing. I was really impressed with Richard’s ideas for operating as a business in order to benefit communities and the links he’d begun to make with potential partner organisations.

Richard brought a colleague on board and they decided to pursue the CIC route. Because both were new to CICs, I offered training on governance for CICs and supported them to get the company set up, giving step by step guidance, helping with the social purpose and explaining the memorandum and articles.

Then in January, I was pleased to learn Partners With Industry had officially become a community interest company. Richard got in touch to tell me the good news and told me

“We very much appreciate your help and it would have been impossible for us to do without your help, advice and guidance.”

Since then, Partners With Industry has set up its website, expanded its business to offer paid services to businesses and made partnerships across the country. I’ve also connected Richard with Eileen from our Volunteer Centre so that Partners With Industry can offer a great volunteering experience too. Richard also hopes to be a Voice of Innovation for the West Midlands Innovation Alliance, which promotes innovation in science and technology.

It’s been great supporting these and many other organisations during a challenging year, and I’m looking forward to working with more as we emerge from the pandemic.

In fact, Dudley CVS is collaborating with consultant David Waterfall to bring an exciting new opportunity to support the sector in Dudley borough to reset and rebuild following the pandemic.

Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will provide the opportunity, with guided expert external facilitation, for the sector to take stock, refocus and reimagine where next in terms of rebuild and recovery. More specifically Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will offer:

  • Opportunities to explore and share together what impact the pandemic has had on your organisation
  • The opportunity to help co-design future Reset, Rebuild and Reimagine sessions
  • Opportunities to develop and learn new skills and insights from a range of external professionals. Topics may include: improving resilience, employment law in relation to Covid-19, help with technology adoption, market development, engaging clients in new ways, business modelling, impact evaluations, financial sustainability, forward strategy etc
  • Dedicated time and space for peer support and action learning
  • A platform for embarking on a journey of exploration, skills development and shared learning together for resetting, rebuilding and reimagining the future of the VCFS across Dudley Borough, and
  • A platform to share amazing stories about how you have adapted your organisation to meet the needs of Dudley residents.

Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will kick start with two sessions on 28 June to co-design with you the shape and content of this exciting and innovative programme, with two places per organisation available. For more information and to book, please visit our story on Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine.

Lots on offer during Small Charity Week and June’s Month of Community

Small Charity Week runs from 14-19 June and is a national campaign to raise the profile of small charities and the big impact they have in our communities. To mark the week, we’ve teamed up with our friends SCVO to bring you some activities and sessions to help you learn, connect and celebrate.

Each day of Small Charity Week has a particular theme:

  • Monday: I Love Small Charities Day
  • Tuesday: Big Advice Day
  • Wednesday: Policy Day
  • Thursday: Fundraising Day
  • Friday: Small Charity Big Impact Day
  • Saturday: Appreciation Day

Here’s what we have on offer during Small Charity Week:

Monday 14 June – An Introduction to Charities, for anyone who wants to learn more about how charities work. Book here.

Tuesday 15 June – SCVO will host as Higgs and Sons join us to talk Volunteers and the Law. Book here.

Wednesday 16 June – Being a Charity Trustee. A brief introduction to the legal duties of charities trustees. Book here.

Thursday 17 June – Dudley Brew, the network for the not-for-profit sector in Dudley borough. Book here.

Thursday 17 June – Meet the Funder, featuring the Tudor Trust. Book here.
Friday 18 June – Trustee Chat, a supportive network for established and new trustees and anyone interested in becoming a charity trustee. Book here.

We’re also cooking up a social media Q&A event for Friday 18 June. Keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook or news page for details!

Don’t forget, you can check out other events happening during Small Charity Week right here.

Month of Community

This year, the national partners behind Small Charity Week have teamed up with others for the Month of Community. Month of Community is about creating a focal point in the year to bring people together to reconnect, celebrate what’s local and help bolster the recovery effort with something that touches everyone. It’s an opportunity to bring our neighbourhoods closer and shine a light on the amazing communities we live in and to give community spirit a boost as we head into summer.

Despite the difficult times for every one of us during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people feel that there have been some positive things to come out of this time. Spending more time at home and being more present in our communities has brought with it a heartening wave of community action, seeing neighbours talking and supporting one another far more than ever before.

Good causes across the UK have teamed up to celebrate summer 2021 with a #MonthOfCommunity. Join in when it works for you and your community, whether that’s to say cheers to volunteers, connect with your neighbours, support a cause you care about or simply to say thank you.

Events include:

This year, the our brilliant Volunteer Centre colleague Eileen is inviting you to share your great volunteering stories and how you’re recognising your volunteers this Volunteers Week. Eileen has also created free customisable certificates for you to download to say a big THANK YOU to your volunteers.

Conversations with the funder – Black Country ESF Community Grants

Last week we held a third ‘Meet the Funder’ event for not-for-profit organisations across Dudley borough. This time we welcomed Ruth Burgess, Grant Manager at Black Country ESF Community Grants. We were also joined by not-for-profits from across the Black Country who heard more about the programmes criteria and priorities.

The session was recorded and is now available as a video and audio podcast.

Ruth has also shared a lovely case study about a Dudley-based organisation that successfully applied to Black Country ESF Community Grants. Scroll down to read more about this and to get more inspiration from a real-life example.

Here’s the video, complete with slides.

And here’s the audio only version:

Example of a fantastic Dudley based project: Magic Touch Network was funded by ESF Community Grants in the summer 2020 to run the “Progression Project”. The project worked with women in Dudley running courses focused on health and beauty as well as additional support with English speaking, reading and writing. The project was designed to help the participants move closer to the job market and equip them with the social and interpersonal skills needed to improve self-confidence.  

Ruth from ESF Black Country Community Grants spoke with Sumaira and Maz from the Magic Touch project to find out more about their project

You were funded during a pandemic, what was the biggest challenge of running a project in 2020? Magic Touch: The biggest challenge was the delays and complications caused by Covid 19. Local people still needed a lot of support but it was hard to balance this with the pandemic restrictions. There were delays in starting the project and a lot more paperwork to do. We had to plan our activities in more detail and be very careful in the way we ran the project in order to keep everyone supported yet safe.

The project managed to get 8 people into work which is an amazing achievement. How did you manage this and what kind of work did participants go into? Magic Touch: Our success was due to working with the ladies on a detailed one to one basis. We had taken on learners genuinely interested in finding employment and worked with them in each session to apply for jobs that they were suited to. Care work was the area that women were mostly interested in and we worked really hard to create connections with care agencies and employers. We supported our learners in making connections with the agencies, this really helped as the informal connections led to interviews and job appointments for learners.

What difference do you think your project made to the people who took part? Our learners gained confidence, moving into jobs has made them feel more positive about their future. The project was a positive and productive experience, it bought them hope and positivity in the dark times of Covid19. 

ESF Community Grants New Rounds:

 ESF Community Grants awards funding of up to £20,000 to organisations who can run projects that support people unemployed (for 6 months minimum) back into work/ training.

The dates for the next 3 rounds are:

7th June 2021

29th July 2021

9th September 2021

Projects need to demonstrate how they can move participants closer to the job market and particularly how they get the long term unemployed ready for work. We aim to fund projects despite the current restrictions and applicants will need to demonstrate how they can adjust their project if needed, for example using remote delivery.

The guidelines, application and hourly rate calculator are available on request by emailing communitygrants@walsall.gov.uk or can be downloaded from BCTA Website  Please make sure you use the latest application, old formats will not be accepted.

Before you apply please contact Ruth.Burgess@walsall.gov.uk for an informal conversation about your application.

Conversations with the funder – Enovert Community Trust, The National Lottery Community Fund and Severn Trent Community Fund

Following our first online ‘Meet the Funder’ event with Lloyds Bank Foundation, we held another focusing on three funders a few days later. This time, the ‘Meet the Funder’ event welcomed and heard from Angela Haymonds from Enovert Community Trust, John Goodman from The National Lottery Community Fund and Jade Gough from Severn Trent Community Fund.

The session was recorded and is now available as an audio podcast or a video of highlights.

The full session complete with Q&A is available to listen to below:

Find specific presentations at the following times:

  • Enovert Community Trust: 33 seconds in
  • The National Lottery Community Fund: 35 minutes
  • Severn Trent Community Fund: 49 minutes

The shorter version, complete with presentation slides is available as a video here:

Our next virtual ‘Meet the Funder’ event on May 10th will welcome Ruth Burgess, who’ll be talking to us about ESF Black Country Community Grants. To attend, book your place here.

Conversations with the funder – Lloyds Bank Foundation

Last week, we held a ‘Meet the Funder’ session for charities working in Dudley borough to learn from and connect with the Lloyds Bank Foundation. Peter Cunnison, Grants Manager for the Lloyds Bank Foundation, joined us and other participants to tell us more about the aims and priorities of the Foundation, which opened to applications earlier this month.

The session was recorded and you can now listen to or watch it here:

Audio only:

Video (with slides)

Make an impact for a small charity: Become a trustee of ARC-AID

Are you interested in becoming a charity trustee? Do you have the skills to make a big impact to a small charity? Do you want to help lead campaigns that raise awareness for people and families affected by industrial cancers and diseases?

This might be the opportunity for you.

ARC-AID (which stands for Asbestos Related Conditions – Allied Industrial Diseases) is a small charity based in Dudley and it is seeking new trustees to help it maximise its work in raising awareness of industrial cancers and diseases, typically caused by exposure to asbestos . The charity raises awareness and campaigns for people and families affected by Mesothelioma and other industrial diseases. The principle ways ARC-AID does this are through awareness raising events and by providing grants and donations to charities that support people affected by Mesothelioma and cancers caused by exposure to asbestos, such as Mesothelioma UK.

The bulk of ARC-AID’s work is raising a platform of awareness through its shop and through talks. The charity runs a little charity shop in Dudley town centre and host a variety of fundraising events throughout the year. They would love to get more people involved, both at trustee and volunteer levels in order to maximise the support the charity can offer, improve its networks and amplify its messages so that more people and families can be helped.

In particular, ARC-AID is looking for a chair, secretary and people with skills in areas such as

  • financial management
  • digital
  • volunteer recruitment and support
  • fundraising
  • legal
  • marketing
  • networking.

Trustees are the people in charge of a charity, which means they do have legal responsibilities. They often give their time in the background, making sure their charity operates properly, safeguarding its staff/volunteers and the people it supports and making sure the charity fulfils its purposes. I’m currently offering support to the charity and can give in-depth training and support (through online video meeting) to anyone interested in this role. You won’t be left alone and I’ll support you every step of the way.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a trustee, or you’d like to find out more, download ARC-AID’s trustee recruitment pack and feel free to contact me at smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk. Alternatively, call Dudley CVS on 01384 573381 and request a call back from me so that we can have an informal chat.

If you’d like to find out more about being a charity trustee, meet other trustees and get further support, why not join us at our next virtual Trustee Chat on Tuesday 23 February at 10am, which we’re running with our friends SCVO? Book your place here.

Dudley CVS commission Riverside Stourbridge CIC to deliver new outdoor social prescribing activities

Riverside House is a beautiful and ecologically diverse site in Stourbridge which runs alongside Stourbridge canal. Riverside House is in the process of transforming the 19th century ironworks area into a heritage centre with gardens, a restaurant, crafts shop, woodland and workshops but also a place where people feel included and bespoke opportunities are provided.

Much of this work is now well underway. Our capacity building team at Dudley CVS initially helped Riverside Stourbridge to get set up as a CIC, supported them with planning, building their vision and securing funding and it is fantastic to see the progress being made. The project works with a wide range of individuals from diverse backgrounds and supports them to learn new practical skills through the conservation and preservation of the estate.

In the winter of 2020, Clare and Lloyd at Riverside Stourbridge CIC applied for funding from our voluntary sector social prescribing fund. The fund makes it possible for new activities and services to be set up and delivered to meet the needs of our Integrated Plus High Intensity User social prescribing clients, who frequently attend A&E or call 999. Their application was successful and they’re now delivering three different workshops including copper & willow weaving, blacksmithing and green woodwork.

Ami is a client accessing the High Intensity User social prescribing service, after hearing about the workshops she was keen to try blacksmithing as she enjoys being outdoors and learning new skills. Ami attended the six week course and thoroughly enjoyed every session, she showed her Link Worker how she had made a plaque for her home to hang her keys on and how she has personalised it. Ami was able to recognise within herself how the workshop had built her confidence and helped her overcome her fear of new places.

“I attended the Blacksmithing course at the Riverside House Project and I loved it! Not only did I get expert and friendly tuition in a totally new skill I had never tried before, but the guys shared their vision and dreams for the Riverside House site during the sessions and got me excited for the future of the project. All the volunteers and leaders were friendly and welcoming, always encouraging and helped me feel confident in something I had never done before! Looking forward to joining with more projects and seeing the way the RHP develops and expands in the coming years.” Ami

To find out more about the other fantastic work that Riverside Stourbridge CIC deliver, click here.

To find out more about our voluntary sector social prescribing fund please email keeley@dudleycvs.org.uk

Carving spoons at a green woodwork session
Making copper bowls

Make a difference in Pensnett: Help to breathe new life into Fens Pool Community Centre

Are you passionate about bringing the community together? Do you believe that residents can lead, organise and create projects that bring life to a community? Do you have skills, passion and time to give to make things happen and help the community in Pensnett to thrive?

If any of these questions apply to you, this might be just the opportunity for you!

Pensnett-based charity, Fens Pool Voluntary Association, is urgently looking for new trustees to help bring new life into its community centre. The charity has traditionally run activities for children and young people as well as recreational and social activities for older people, bringing people together to improve the community’s wellbeing.

Fens Pool Voluntary Association faces significant challenges as sources of funding have steadily diminished over the years and trustees and other volunteers have moved on. Members of the Association are seeking new trustees to breathe new life into the charity and get it back on track.

Like all charities, Fens Pool Voluntary Association is set up to achieve its charitable objects – they’re its reason for existing. In summary, the charitable objects are to bring the community together in a common effort to advance education and provide facilities for the community in a way that supports social welfare. This means that new trustees will have the freedom to set up any projects or activities that will contribute to those aims, so this could be an exciting opportunity for people who want to make new things happen.

Trustees are the people in charge of a charity, which means they do have legal responsibilities. They often give their time in the background, making sure their charity operates properly, safeguarding its staff and the people it supports and making sure the charity fulfils its purposes. I’m currently supporting some of the members of Fens Pool Voluntary Association who are looking for trustees and I’m pleased to offer in-depth training and support (through online video meeting) to anyone interested in this role. You won’t be left alone and I’ll support you every step of the way.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a trustee, or you’d like to find out more, download the trustee recruitment pack and feel free to contact me at smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk. Alternatively, call Dudley CVS on 01384 573381 and request a call back from me so that we can have an informal chat.

Dudley CVS AGM and Covid Heroes Awards 2020 – Celebrating inspirational people and vibrant communities across Dudley borough

At our virtual AGM and Covid Heroes Awards 2020 this year, we shared highlights from our work during 2019/20 and celebrated the outstanding contributions made by both individuals and groups to support those most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the first part of the evening we shared highlights from our year; how we’ve been connecting, inspiring & championing great community work across Dudley borough: http://dudleycvsreview.org – You can download a snapshot of our annual report 2020 here: https://bit.ly/35xHUgO

During the second part of the evening, we recognised the amazing volunteers, staff and local groups who have truly gone the extra mile during these challenging times.

We are delighted to share this storyboard on our blog and hope you enjoy reading about our main awardees. You can watch nomination videos and also videos from some of our awardees, who have shared their thoughts on receiving an award.

Faith in the Community Award – Presented by Mark Axcell

Main Award: Michelle Smith

Michelle has a demanding full-time job and three young children, and yet for almost two years has led the Champions Kitchen outreach ministry. Pre-COVID 19 this involved organising and managing a weekly soup kitchen that served sit-down hot meals to around 70 people while also providing all guests with a bag of essential food supplies. This was delivered by a volunteer team of approximately 20 people each week. Michelle led the team which involved co-ordinating rotas, arranging food purchasing, liaising with local supermarkets for essential supplies and supervising the evening’s activities. 

Since COVID19 and the lockdown Michelle’s desire and passion to make sure no-one in need goes without has seen the weekly soup kitchen grow and expand into a weekly hot meal and essential supplies delivery service now catering for and delivering over 300 hot meals every Tuesday evening since the end of March.

Kindness in a Crisis Award – Presented by Paul Assinder

Highly Commended: Esther Olivier, Mary Stevens Hospice

Esther is from Mary Stevens Hospice and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has supported people with long-term conditions and their carers in the local community, in addition to patients receiving palliative and end of life care within Mary Stevens Hospice. Esther has worked above and beyond her role in several ways, with a dedication to help those most vulnerable in our Dudley community and always with kindness and compassion.

Highly Commended: Zyllah Moranne-Brown, Black Country Radio

Zyllah is a volunteer at Black Country Radio and has worked tirelessly, both within her remit as volunteer Head of Marketing and in other capacities, to ensure the station stayed on air and its volunteer base remained consistent during the pandemic. Her work can often go unnoticed but was essential for ensuring the station remained on air throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Zyllah was responsible alongside another volunteer for picking up some of the 500+ calls from frequently anxious and vulnerable individuals, to the Black Country Radio Covid Support Helpline and signposting them to partners such as DCVS for support.

Highly Commended: Lottie Woodward

Lottie had a stroke at the start of January so was unable to do any ‘hands on’ work, so she created a coronavirus mental health page on Facebook. Using her skills as a counsellor and 30 years’ experience in domestic abuse, people have used this group to seek help and support. During lockdown, cases of domestic abuse cases have soared, and Lottie has selflessly given her time for free to help women who have got in touch with her to help them escape or manage dangerous situation.

Main Award: Shona-Rose Gilsenan, Just Straight Talk

Shona was visible and responsive within multiple communities across Dudley from day one of lockdown. Providing essential food and prescription drops to the boroughs to many people that simply could not do these everyday tasks for themselves. From those that could usually function that found themselves housebound to those that are the most vulnerable within our neighbourhoods.

She provided an avenue for people that live on their own or with people that do not communicate with other in their household talking to them for long periods of time over the phone and setting up zoom meetings and coffee mornings. Shona gained funding from additional sources to enable the purchasing of digital devices to connect with lonely and isolated people. She arranged events and quiz’s for people from all walks of life to get involved, make new friendships and grow and develop their own confidence and self-esteem without even leaving the house. In particular Shona encouraged people to lead within the groups and each week they became the co-ordinator of the session, they led the quiz and this gave the individual an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction.

Shona led and facilitated this and it became something very special. She stepped up almost immediately to the challenges Covid presented whilst juggling her own personal life and childcare. We feel very fortunate at Just Straight Talk as does the community as a whole, to have had her dedication and loyalty, always with a spring in her step and a smile.

Shona Gilsennan

Covid Community Champion Award – Presented by Kim Madill

Main Award: (Group) Sedgley Coronavirus Support

This community volunteer group was specifically formed quickly under the guidance of Jack Withers to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak. Jack recruited 20 volunteers local to the Sedgley area and immediately answered the call from Dudley CVS to register the group. They also arranged leaflet drops around the local community, so that vulnerable people could feel safe in the knowledge that there was someone there at the end of the phone, to help provide essential supplies of food and medicines and befriending telephone calls.

Main Award: (Individual) Andrea Childs and Carly Grandini-Williams

These wonderful ladies re-created Art during lockdown and shared via Facebook with hilarious results!! They gained a huge following of over 400 people on Facebook, people who just needed cheering up. The amount of comments they had from people saying that they were helping them to keep smiling through this difficult time was unbelievable. Each day was sillier than the last, with some of the photos causing hilarity when people were struggling to lift their spirits.

Business with a Big Heart Award – Presented by Tim Jones

Highly Commended: Abrar Ahmed, One 4 You Services Ltd

Their nominator told us that Abrar and his team have been so much help to the community by keeping them safe and meeting their needs during the pandemic. He gave free taxi rides to nurses and doctors to the hospitals, delivered medication and food parcels to vulnerable people so they didn’t need to leave the house. He and his team also provided 3 course meals to staff at Russells Hall hospital. This demonstrates that Abrar and his team really care for the community and have been a big help to them.

Main Award: Dudley Arms

For our main awardee, disaster struck on Friday March 21st 2020 when all pubs were forced to close. They closed the doors not knowing what would happen to the business, the staff or their own future. During this time their team set about doing all they could to make sure that local residents were catered for and that any opportunities to be active throughout the pandemic were achieved. They heard of the plight of a local older peoples sheltered accommodation and their need to receive meals during the pandemic. Despite knowing there was no income from their regulars, the brewery pressuring them for rent and facing an immediate future of no income, they still continued to provide food for the centre to prepare meals. In fact they prepared more than 2000 during the lockdown period. They supported the team through regular communication and when they heard that their local football team coached by Adam from Black Country Wellbeing Centre were struggling for sponsorship this year, they once again stepped in and saved the day.

Young Covid Hero Award – Presented by John Cook
Joint Main Award:

Alex Griffiths

Alex Griffiths

Alex’s nomination form – 024 Alex Griffiths

Katie Davies

Katie’s nomination form: 018 Katie Davies

Covid Superstar Award – Presented by Bal Kaur
Joint Main Award:

Rose Cook Monk

As soon as the pandemic started in March, they were one of the first volunteers to sign up to support Dudley CVS’s Covid Community Networks. They were matched up with Dennis on their first day, who had been referred for support by his neighbour. Dennis was vulnerable, isolated and shielding, but they started doing his shopping each week and cooking him home-made treats. They were horrified to hear he subsisted off frozen ready meals and was soon dropping off homemade dishes for his freezer. They used to chat a couple of times a week on the phone too and used to ask if he was ok. Dennis always said “I am now I’ve seen you and bless you for looking after me”.

When Dennis was rushed into hospital after falling down the stairs, they were the person he rang as he had no-one else to call. They were horrified that someone they had known for 5 weeks was completely alone and was determined to be a friend to him going forward. After he came out of hospital they continued to support him and when they couldn’t reach him on the phone a week later, called around his house to be told by his neighbour that he had died. They were devastated, but a little consoled with the fact they had made a huge impact on his life in a very short time, providing him with a friend when he needed one!

During the pandemic this volunteer looked after 14 vulnerable, isolated people, with shopping, prescription collections etc. They also raised money through their own voluntary group, the Duncan Edwards Foundation, to purchase PPE for those who needed it, making up over 500 care packages for keyworkers with toiletries such as skin creams – as wearing face masks all day was causing skin issues for NHS and care staff. They have even been so far as Derby delivering care packages for those who need them. They have, with the support of their family and friends, donated over 7,000 pieces of PPE to key and care workers, people who have been caring for elderly or vulnerable family members, and latterly to people who have been self-isolating who could now go out but were still wary to do so. In addition, they have also become a donation point for the food bank and donated 600 meals to needy families.

Phil Alliband

They were an active volunteer for the Dudley CVS Covid Locality Networks and they told us this about them:

My colleague and I have nicknamed this volunteer ‘Thunderbird 1’ as they leap into action within minutes for any crisis that may arise and never say ‘no’! They are our go to volunteer for anywhere in the borough. We have had calls at 5 pm on a Friday to the Black Country Radio helpline, when people need urgent prescriptions but could not leave their house to get to the chemist, as they had been shielding. One call to this volunteer and within an hour the prescription is collected, delivered and they are on their way home.

Phil gives everyone he helps his number and he’s the first person some of them call in an emergency. Barbara rings him often when she had a problem, such as needing to go to the GP surgery. Phil kitted himself and Barbara out with PPE, settled her in the back of his car and took her there himself.

We had some PPE donated by an anonymous donor during the pandemic and this volunteer collected the items from the donor. On one collection they needed to go with another volunteer and they took 8 car loads each! They took charge of the stock, logging what was available and fulfilling the order lists that they were sent weekly. Driving the length and breadth of Dudley borough, distributing over 200,000 items of PPE to schools, faith groups, charities, community groups etc., ensuring it was shared out to those most in need, including the Foodbank. They have been invaluable and without their commitment and organisational skills, this would have been a challenge with the restrictions during the pandemic.

Phil Alliband

A special thanks to all the amazing Covid heroes across the Dudley borough, and to those who contributed to making the evening such a special event!