Hearts and Crafts: A lifeline for people in Sedgley

Hearts and Crafts group based in Sedgley is a social group where people can take part in a range of arts and crafts activities in a welcoming and supportive environment. It’s a place where people can learn new skills from their peers, share knowledge and get creative! Perhaps more importantly, it’s a place that nurtures people as well as their creativity.

I was introduced to Hearts and Crafts by my colleague Georgia, who through her role as Integrated Plus Link Support Worker has referred people to this group as a way of helping them to be more connected in their local community. The group has been running for 4 years, and it’s co-ordinated by a team that shares all the practical tasks. In fact, it’s become so popular that they’ve set up another session on the same day so that more people can attend and take part in comfort. There were at least 25 people when I paid the group a visit recently as part of the work I’m doing with Age UK Dudley. The knitting table was particularly busy!

At Hearts and Crafts, there are opportunities to take part in a range of creative activities. There’s a table for knitting, needlework and crochet, a table dedicated to papercrafts and another table for painting. People are free to choose to do as much or as little as they please and as I chatted to some of the members it became clear that Hearts and Crafts was less about what they did and more about the friendships that have been made there.

One lady didn’t find it easy to be among new people or in new situations. She was introduced to the group after someone struck up conversation with her at a party where she didn’t know many people. That one connection led her to tentatively joining the group. Now she’s a regular and gets involved in the papercrafts, chatting to her new friends and helping each other to design cards. She told me that this is the only place she goes, so she really looks forward to it every week. She walks there and she’s certain going to Hearts and Crafts gives her purpose and keeps her fit and active.

Over on the knitting table, participants were making all kinds of things for themselves and for others, sharing skills and encouraging each other. I was told that one of the participants who was knitting with such dexterity was recovering from a stroke. It was obvious how much people value Hearts and Crafts as participants told me that attending had given them a sense of purpose.

On the busy painting table, people of all abilities were trying out working with watercolours and acrylic. A gentleman was helping two people who had come for the first time, reassuring them that the worst that could happen was that their paintings might end up in the bin! By the end of the session, the two people had painted beautiful landscapes and they were looking forward to coming again. It’s that kind of welcome and encouragement that has made Hearts and Crafts so popular.
When I asked the gentleman about his painting, he told me that he’d been to a class in the 1990s and realised it was harder than it looked at first. But he persevered and now helps his wife to decorate cards that she makes. He loves painting and told me that he can forget all of his troubles by becoming immersed in his creativity. He comes to Hearts and Crafts specifically to help others to get the same benefits.

Another lady told me that Hearts and Crafts was her lifeline, especially after she’d been through a difficult period in her life. She was full of admiration for the team members who make Hearts and Crafts happen every week. She said that the team got upset when the group was so big that team members couldn’t get around to everyone to have a conversation with them; that was the reason for setting up another session later that day. It felt like the team has really fostered a sense of belonging and family as I was told that the team members would text people if the session had to be cancelled to save them setting out; whenever anyone missed a week, someone would be in touch to check everything was ok. It’s the kind of belonging that would help anyone feel connected and wanted.

Capturing the character of amazing local volunteers

At the start of 2018 DCVS was invited to assist Midland Film And Art, a collection of artists, craft workers, writers, performers and film producers, who were applying to the Arts Council (England) for funding towards a Character Portraits Project. The idea for the project was to create 24 real-life portraits of volunteers from across Dudley and Sandwell in recognition of what volunteers do to help their local communities.

DCVS agreed to support the project and put forward the names of 12 Dudley volunteers, including our Chairman, Mike Abrahams.  The artists taking part included writers and actors, and all went through an application and selection process.

The project application was approved by Arts Council (England) and this wonderful project commenced.

The Dudley borough volunteers who had been nominated were celebrated in variety of creative formats including the written word, sculpture, portraits in oils, felt and graphite, and even a mutoscope!  MFAA recorded films to record the process for each piece of art and these are available on our YouTube Channel if you would like to watch them.

On 12th April we will be holding a celebration event where family and friends of the subjects, plus the artists and supporters involved from MFAA will have a final opportunity to see the original pieces. The Mayor of Dudley, Cllr Alan Taylor, will be presenting the originals to the subjects for them to keep.  Local art lovers are most welcome to pop in and see these amazing pieces for themselves between 3 and 4 pm on Friday 12th April, in the main hall at DY1 Venue, Stafford Street, Dudley DY1 1RT.

However, this will not be the last time you get to see these pieces as we have plans to convert images of the artwork onto canvas prints for public display, and for them to tour the borough displayed in various locations so everyone can enjoy them.

Over the next few months we will be sharing pictures of these wonderful creative pieces individually and telling you the stories behind these amazing volunteers who are featured in them.

One of the portraits will be on display in the café at DY1 Venue from 15th April until 30th June 2019.  Steve Mukanovic (Ford) passed away in late December and was a well-known local volunteer, who had also volunteered as a minibus driver for Dudley CVS.  As he had so many friends, Dudley CVS thought it would be appropriate for his portrait to be displayed in the café so that friends and family could pop in for a cuppa and reflect on their much loved friend and relative.  The portrait will hopefully be going to a permanent home where he volunteered for over 30 years, but we wanted to share this beautiful piece of art with the world before it goes to its final location.

Celebrating Integrated Plus as part of International Social Prescribing Day – Connecting and supporting for wellbeing and a sense of purpose

 

Dudley CVS has been delivering a social prescribing service for the nearly 5 years. In early 2014, Dudley CVS with support from Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group (Dudley CCG), identified an opportunity to develop and deliver an innovative, flexible and complementary service called ‘Integrated Plus’.

The service was set up to trial a different approach to supporting people in their own homes to ensure the non-clinical needs of patients are taken into account at the GP-led Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings (MDTs) established in 2014. Integrated Plus offers 1-2-1 social prescribing support to patients aged 16 and over who are:

  • At high risk of hospital admission
  • Frequently visiting their GP
  • Vulnerable and in need on non-clinical, social support

Our support is about enabling and facilitating connections with others, nurturing new friendships and helping people to find purpose in their lives. We focus on the whole person’s needs whatever they might be, to jointly find solutions to challenges faced. Our approach is about spending quality time with people, actively listening to their needs, goals and aspirations. We explore what is important to the person and help them to identify, amplify and reflect on their strengths, passions and skills. 99% of people we have connected with stated that spending quality time with them actively listening and exploring what they want to achieve as the most valuable component of our service.

Other key facts and stats

  • 4,326 referrals from GPs and at the MDT meetings. Of 4,326 we have connected with 3,132 people.
  • 81% reduction change in people that were not managing in the areas of finances but who are now getting appropriate support or now managing ok
  • 82% reduction change in people that were not managing their physical health but who are now getting support or now managing ok
  • 80% reduction change in people that were isolated and lonely but who are now accessing services/activities or no longer feel isolated or lonely
  • 8,719 outward referrals to organisations, 60% to the voluntary sector
  • Avoidable A&E attendances have reduced by 17% over a 12 month period after Integrated Plus interventions, cost avoidance totalling £58,305
  • Avoidable hospital admissions have reduced by 15% over a 12 month period after Integrated Plus interventions, cost avoidance totalling £751,400
  • Overall GP consultations have reduced by 15%, cost avoidance totalling £73,115

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Karen supported to find time for herself and regain her confidence

Karen was referred to Integrated Plus by her GP. She was diagnosed with depression and finding life difficult to cope with.  Karen is selfless and spends most of her time caring for others.  She has caring responsibilities for her mother, an aunt and a son who is disabled.  Despite her busy schedule, Karen is regarded as being positive and upbeat about herself and her life but while looking after everybody else her own mental health was deteriorating and she became unwell.

When Karen met the Locality Link Officer for Stourbridge, Wollescote and Lye she said she felt “Lost and exhausted and didn’t know what to do.” The Link Officer listened to Karen and discussed options for her to have some time concentrating on herself, regaining her confidence and doing something she would find helpful and worthwhile.  The Link Officer asked Karen what hobbies and interests she had and if she would like to do some activities. Karen said yes and the Link Officer agreed to accompany her to her first activity until she felt comfortable with her surroundings.  They went to the University of the 3rd Age in Stourbridge (U3A) and Karen enjoyed it and settled in a lot quicker than she thought she would.

Karen now has the confidence to attend on her own and has been to the U3A several times and is going to join the group as a member. She is looking forward to enrolling on a diverse programme of classes in the New Year, including, lace making, walking and tap dancing. She was surprised and pleased to find that the lace making course is taught by a neighbour and this has rekindled their friendship.

The Link Support Worker met Karen a couple of months later to do a follow up review and she said her mental health has significantly improved and that she is feeling much better. Karen has also grown in confidence and has attended some Carers Coffee Mornings and said this has been important in reducing the isolation and loneliness felt by many carers.

Karen has reconnected with neighbours and her wider community and has made new friends since being referred to Integrated Plus. She said she was very grateful for the “…impartial support from Integrated Plus.”  And without this support she said she would probably be “sat at home rocking back and forth in her chair not knowing what to do next.” With support from Integrated Plus and Karen’s desire to make changes she is looking forward to the future with renewed confidence and hope.

For more information contact: Kate Green. Email: buildingblocks@dudleycvs.org.uk

 

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’ – Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group

Based at the Meadow Road Youth Centre, the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group, in Dudley, is a group for older people who are interested in woodwork.  It’s a fun and friendly environment offering older people a place to learn new or develop existing woodworking skills. It’s also a great place to find new friendships. The group has 23 members in total. Some members live on their own, some are widowers, some just like to get out of the house, make something and put their skills to good use! The oldest member, Ken, is 93 years old.

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’  That’s the motto of the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group.

The wood workshop is fully equipped with modern tools and machinery. There really isn’t much that the group hasn’t made, and they’re always on the lookout for new projects to keep them occupied. They’ve kindly created cosy homes for many of the animals at Dudley Zoo, a castle hideout for the zoo’s female guinea pigs, a hotel for rabbits, bird, bat and red panda boxes. They’ve even built penguin boxes – they tell me that they have successfully bred since, so must have done a good job making them feel at home!

Members have also kindly given their time and skills to build a variety of bird habitats for the Midland Metro Alliance which will be installed along the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill route for the Midland Metro. It’s hoped that the bird boxes will attract a wide range of nesting birds.

They’ve built a bench for Acorns Children’s Hospice, nest boxes for local schools and they’re now looking to build Pine Marten boxes for an RSPB site in Shropshire.

The group acquire offcuts of wood donated by local businesses which enables them to build all of the items, these materials would otherwise have gone to landfill. They have even rescued supermarket trolleys from the canal and used the wheels to make wood replenishing trolleys that fit snuggly under the workbenches.

Steve is one of the youngest members of the group, he joined when he was 63 and mainly makes things for the family like shelving and benches. He tells me that people like to come to the workshop because they enjoy the camaraderie and they like to have a good laugh. A couple of members don’t look forward to the Christmas holidays as it just imposes on them coming to the workshop! They’ll open up again as soon as Boxing Day arrives, as long as there are two people in the workshop, for health and safety reasons, they will happily come in over Christmas!

Steve contacted Dudley CVS to get support to apply for a Dudley Community Forum Grant of £550. The application was successful, helping them to purchase sanding disks, belts, saw blades, machine saws and new router bits. They’ve also received £900 from Age UK, which they have used to buy a new router machine.

Dave is one of the founding members of the group, he’s made things including rocking horses and dolls houses. It usually takes him about 3 months to make a rocking horse which is made in blocks, glued together and then carved and painted. He’s also carved a shark out of wood, which sits on his fireplace at home.

Chairman Mick, is highly skilled on the woodturning lathes, he’s made fruit bowls and pens. He’s even made a beautifully carved walking stick.

Dave and Derek have a background in upholstery. Derek recently made an intricate money box. He enjoys coming to the workshop, but doesn’t like Thursdays much, as that’s when the workshop closes for the weekend!

Ken, the oldest member, is making clocks for his sons out of an old sideboard that belonged to his parents.

Bruce makes detailed wooden toy trains, plains and trucks. He finds his inspiration in woodwork books.

Bill is 84, he came to the workshop when he was 70, he started out as Chairman. He likes to make clocks and other things. He remembers the days when they used to walk around timber yards asking for offcuts of wood. He said “Coming here is good, we can discuss things over lunch, at our age, we don’t see anybody, pubs are too expensive and not good for you!’

George, the treasurer, likes to make boats with sails. He keeps them in his large shed, apparently, you have to go in sideways because of the number fabulous boats, lifeboats and submarines he has made.

All members are extremely skilled and talented. Some had skills before, some hadn’t, many have learnt skills from each other. All of their items are beautifully made and finished to a high standard.

The group originally started in the early 2000s when a few people were faced with redundancy from local businesses. It was suggested they go on other courses to re-skill, one of those was a woodwork course at Dudley College. When that closed down the group moved to Mons Hill in Dudley, then amalgamated with another group from Brierley Hill, it was then that they moved to Meadow Road Youth Centre where they have been based for over a decade now. They still use the original machinery that was donated by Dudley College over a decade ago.

The group has recently become a member of UK Men’s Sheds Association. Men’s Sheds provides support and guidance to individuals and groups across the UK, raising awareness of the social and health benefits of Men’s Sheds in reducing isolation, loneliness and in empowering local communities. Men’s Sheds supports individual groups to connect with new members of the community. They also provide advice and guidance on starting up and running a shed providing practical information guides, example documents and toolkits on topics such as registering as a charity, insurance, funding, sourcing equipment and venues, and volunteer recruitment.

To anyone who might be interested to join, they would say, “Come in, do your own thing, we’ve got heating, toilets and cups of tea to keep us nice and warm! What more could you want?”

To find out more about the group visit https://bit.ly/2WxNlHd

Making magic happen!

Well what another amazing Operation Santa 2018 was!  13152 donations was our final figure for 2018.  We had more support than ever from members of the public, statutory partners and businesses, with some phenomenal donations.  Conversely, we also had more sad tales and children, and their families in crisis, than ever before – domestic abuse, burglaries, evictions, deaths, separations, parents with no money and no-one to turn to.

How did we do?

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Who did we support this year?

This year we had 51 lists of children and young people who needed our support to provide a gift when otherwise they would get nothing [average number on list was 25, although there were 89 on one list!].  These lists came from people from the voluntary, community, faith and statutory sector [this included schools, social workers, children’s centres and housing support], who support children and families in need.  We don’t deal with individuals and only take referrals through groups, as that way the group can identify those most in need.  We have had more organisations and groups than ever before through the Operation Santa Grotto this year!

In addition to that we funded 11 Christmas parties, some of which provided a full Christmas lunch and provided grotto presents for parties.

Supporters

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Our regular supporters from Kingswinford Charity Football Club – Simon, Carl, Mike, Jason, Louis and their lovely families supported us again this year:  fundraising to provide a hot Christmas lunch and party for 100 local children and their parents at DY1 Venue.  Simon works in local schools in the borough, so was able to ask them to nominate families most in need.   Abi and Stacey helped us again, as did Becky and Ben Knott who dressed up as elves.  They did a sterling job assisting Santa 3
and keeping the children amused.  Abi’s colouring corner was a huge success too, with those who didn’t want to join in the fun with Wally Wombat having a quiet time with some colouring. Wally did a wonderful job of amusing the children and the adults.

Everyone sat down to a delicious Christmas dinner, prepared once again by the lovely Donna, Dawn and Kayleigh from Lunch on the Run, who gave up their Saturday to cook and serve a piping hot lunch.

Huge thanks to Eric for stepping in to play Santa.  He did a fantastic job and the children thoroughly enjoyed chatting to him. One little boy was trying to grab an armful of presents 4
which brought home to us how little some children may get at Christmas.  Team Santa elves had wrapped lots of lovely grotto presents so everyone got an extra treat on their way out too.  Cheers to Carl too for once again providing goody bags for the parents.

It was a wonderful afternoon and everyone seemed to have fun, although we were moved to tears after discovering that one family had eaten nothing hot for two months and a second family hadn’t eaten anything for a couple of days.  However, we had food spare from lunch and two sizeable take-away bags of food were soon put together for the families, including some fresh baguettes. Turkey and stuffing sandwiches may well have been on the menu for tea that day!

The party was a roaring success as always and it’s all booked again for next year.

 

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ent with providing the party, the lovelies did a huge Smyth’s toy shop the following week, which ensured the grotto was bulging at the seams again.  They drove over to Smyth’s in Longbridge, where Shane the manager kindly offered to open an hour early so they had the shop to themselves.  Here are the boys with their huge pile of toys.

 

 

 

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Maren Lilley from Dudley MBC

Dudley MBC staff and Local Councillors

More staff and councillors than ever kindly supported us this year with a wonderful selection of toys and gifts. Here is Maren from Chief Exec’s Department who organises the council collection each year.

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Glynne after School Club

This lovely group have supported us for several years and this year was no exception with a visit to the grotto loaded with gifts. It’s wonderful that a group of local children want to make a difference to other children who may get nothing for Christmas.  This lovely photo shows Dean Goodman (Deputy Manager), Carley Jewkes-Jones (Deputy Manager), Emily Eades (Chairgirl) and Christian Allport (Chairboy)

Please click here for a full list of all our lovely supporters

Brilliant businesses bringing hope

Brett and the Blaze Angels – Our wonderful Business Ambassador and his team have, as always, gone the extra mile for Operation Santa. They generated an incredible 4946 donations and as always brokered the mystery business supporter’s donation.  This team are on a mission to make a difference and spread the word about the difference Operation Santa makes locally, and the importance of supporting the appeal.

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Our Magical supporter
 – Lee Southerton from Volks Magic and his team of amazing supporters from Santa’s a Gangster were fired up to make a huge difference this year.  Lee’s nephew Dale donated a VW Mk2 Golf Cabriolet and a prize draw was set up.

Along with fundraising at VDubz in the Valley, the Prize Draw and other lovely supporters, this year over £9000 was raised!  Lee even had a video made by the legendary Fuzz from the Car SOS TV programme encouraging everyone to support the appeal!

This phenomenal figure meant that we were able to do a huge shop for toys and gifts, which meant the grotto was piled up to the ceiling and at one point we couldn’t get in the door.  Also we were able to provide food gift cards, toys etc and emergency support to families in crisis, including one who was the victim of a burglary right before Christmas, when the thieves stole Christmas presents for 3 girls, but left the TV and electronics!  This incredible fundraising has also meant that we have a very healthy bank balance for Operation Santa 2019.

Not content with providing funds, Lee and Billy the Elf popped in regularly with piles of donations too, totalling a jaw dropping 1576 donations of toys and gifts too!

Court House Carvery – Chris, Paula and Paul who run the pub kindly donated 100 free Christmas lunches for local children. We approached two local schools and provided a coach for the Monday 17th December meal, when 50 children and their parents from Bromley Primary School enjoyed a Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings and ice cream for dessert.  Santa was there too and every child received a present.

On Wednesday 19th December the Court House hosted another lunch and 50 children and their parents from Bromley Hills Primary School enjoyed lunch, dessert and a present from Santa too.

Smyth’s Toys – Shane the Manager at the Longbridge store generously opened his store an hour early one Sunday, so Simon, Mike, Carl and Jason for Kingswinford Charity Football Club could shop in peace. He also gave them a generous discount and some free toys – what a star!

Prospect coaches – kindly provided us with a free coach for the 19th December Court House Christmas lunch, after we had to change the school attending and needed a coach at very short notice.

Merry Hill private hire – when the appeal went out for a free coach, Adam from Merry Hill Private Hire kindly offered us one too and although we did not take him up on his generous offer, we have been invited to ask again next year if we are again offered free carveries.

Geoff Hill – We sadly said goodbye to Geoff Hill this year and he was a much loved and stalwart supporter of Operation Santa for many years.  He was also a founding member of the Hope Charity that used to support the appeal.  Geoff popped into the office every year with a cheque to support the appeal.  He will be sadly missed as he was so much a part of Operation Santa, amongst all his other charity activities.

Nicklin – are one of our longest serving supporters and Harvey was on the original Hope Charity Board.  Each year staff collect for us and encourage their customers to donate too, so they always arrive with a lovely pile of gifts.

We also had a small business who had ceased trading and donated their stock to us, which was entirely toys and colouring packs.

Our mystery supporter – each year we have a sizeable donation from a large high street retailer who insists on remaining anonymous, but is brokered via Brett Harris from Blaze Hair.  This year they generously gave us around 2000 items, which have all gone to good homes.

Team Santa

As Operation Santa has grown we’ve had to grow the team too and three new elves joined our ranks in 2018.  It’s certainly a volunteer role with a difference as it’s a hectic 6 weeks of collections and deliveries of toys and gifts, sorting, counting, wrapping grotto presents, helping with toy and gift selection, plus helping at our Christmas parties, greeting guests, helping with activities, laying the room out, helping to serve lunch and clear away after, plus numerous other tasks.  I would like to record my heartfelt support to the incredible team who helped make Operation Santa so successful and supported me through an extremely stressful and emotional period.

Trev is my long-suffering husband who is conscripted each year to support Operation Santa.  He’s always spend hours of his own time, petrol and money to support me to make Operation Santa go smoothly, and reach as many children and young people as possible.

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Rose Cook Monk

Has volunteered for Operation Santa for three years and loves to make a difference. She juggles her volunteering around her existing charitable activities, most notably the Duncan Edwards Foundation, her speaking and family commitments. Rose’s comments about Operation Santa below sum up why she is so passionate about supporting #TeamSanta every year:

 

“Operation Santa for me is what Christmas is all about…..thinking of others, giving love where it is needed and sharing the true meaning of the festive period.   When you see your time and effort rewarded with hugs, smiles and tears, it is worth every second.   Operation Santa is an extension of my own family Christmas and the team behind it my extended Family”

Jayne Waltho

“Brilliantly organised operation to deal with a very large amount of donations.  Superb team, all pulling together to make it all happen and ensure that as many children as possible have some joy at Christmas time.  Very humbling, and at times some upsetting stories, but so happy to be part of the incredible “Operation Santa” and to know that I helped in making a difference!  Ready to help when it all starts again this year!!  “

Sarah Alliband

“What I liked most was knowing that my efforts are helping to make a difference to people’s lives, parents and children alike 😁”

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Steve Mukovic [aka Steve Ford]

Joined us an elf in November 2018 and spent hours in the grotto with the other elves, sorting donations and wrapping approx 650 grotto presents!  Steve was a lovely, warm-hearted man, with a wonderful sense of humour and always made you smile.  He volunteered for 35+ years on the Children’s Ward at Russell’s Hall Hospital, granting wishes to over 500 children and also volunteered for Dudley Hospital Radio and as a minibus driver for Dudley CVS when they ran their transport project.  We were sad to learn that Steve passed away between Christmas and New Year, and we will miss him dearly.

Sandra Moss

We also recruited another elf this year, especially to help us with the Court House events. The lovely Sandra [who is a friend of Brett Harris from Blaze Hair] arrived at the Court House in her elf outfit at both of our special carveries, helping to set up the room, serving lunch and helping Santa.

Feedback

It’s always good to hear that Operation Santa has made a difference and we’ve had some lovely feedback this year.

A grateful Mum

Just before Christmas we supported a single Mum Chloe who had been the victim of a burglary. Her car and all the Christmas presents for her three daughters were all stolen, whilst the family slept upstairs.  Her mum sent us a lovely thank you message:

“I cannot thank you and your team enough.  I just can’t believe how you have turned a really horrendous situation upside down. My daughter sat on the kitchen floor when Marieclare brought the presents and broke her heart. You and your team have totally restored my faith in the human race … you cannot imagine the difference this gesture will make to the girls xmas… U are truly amazing and I cannot thank you enough. What a blessed xmas Chloe will have xxxxx”

Jon Stevens – Head teacher, Bromley Hills Primary School

“Before Christmas we were given the opportunity to send a group of children, with their parents, for a Christmas lunch at the Court House Carvery in December. It was Eileen Fielding who contacted us and arranged this for us. I would like to send my appreciation and thanks, first of all to Eileen for organising this so well and then to the Court House Carvery for providing the food free of charge to families who cannot afford this normally. It was a fantastic experience for the children, who came back buzzing with excitement, and for the parents who all said how wonderful the food was and also that they were given this chance and opportunity.

Therefore, on behalf of the children and parents, I would like to say a very big thank you for providing this chance for us, it really did make a difference.”

Sarah Parkes – Brierley Hill Family Centre

“Just an email to say thank you for all of the hard work you and your team put in to support our families. Without people like you the children we work with would not have had that special gift to make their Christmas. You’re a star 🙂 “

Sutton School

“Operation Santa has given Sutton School students a magical Christmas and a huge smile on their faces”

http://www.sutton.dudley.sch.uk/blog/2018/12/21/operation-santa-iii-parenthub?fbclid=IwAR2i95PKstVENSBAP5CdS7TejM4odAauHXWXp7e7k6HpzEwDg_6xJb0LS4g

What’s next?

We are organising another fundraising event on 23rd March, so please help us spread the word and raise lots of funds for this year’s Operation Santa. We are hoping to raise £1000 to pay for hot Christmas meals for children and families across the borough, who may otherwise not get a hot meal.

Discover U – Providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities

Based in Wollaston, Discover U is a vibrant and welcoming space providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities. Discover U is not a daycare centre, it’s a charity working to support people who face barriers when getting into employment. It’s an environment where people can prosper and grow, fulfil their goals and reach their potential, a place to learn social, emotional, functional and employability skills. The people that go there are supported by volunteers to set their own goals and are helped to achieve them.

Discover U has a well-equipped wood workshop, garden area, front tea room and upstairs sewing room, most of which are busy every day. With materials donated by local businesses, they are able to turn unwanted pieces of wood, fabrics and bottles (some of which donated by the Brierley Hill Civic) into beautifully handcrafted and saleable items. They even have donations of fruit from people in the local community which they use to make cakes for the tea room. It’s now a community hub where local people can pop in for a hot drink, a cake, and look at all the wonderful items for sale.

You only have to look around the workshop to see the passion to learn, the creativity, the enjoyment and sense of pride in the products they have made. Everywhere you look there are beautifully made high-quality products, Bee Hotels, bird boxes, bottle lights, knitted tea cosies, cushions, chairs, you name it…they have probably made it! They even made our wooden awards for the Dudley CVS Volunteer Awards last year.

It’s a wonderful hive of activity. Lorna is busy drawing up ideas for her next recycled bottle project; she shows us her sketchbook full of ideas and designs. James has invested his time learning about safeguarding and what you need to do to keep people safe. Thanks to James, Discover U is now recognised as a Safe Place to visit in Dudley. Kieran is busy tidying up the cabin shop showing us the variety of products for sale. Darren tells us how he wants to work as a painter and decorator having learnt painting skills in the workshop.

Discover U members come from a variety of backgrounds, together they are building a vibrant, fun and pleasant working environment.

Everybody plays an important part, whether it’s in the design of a new concept, the manufacturer or the sale of a product at the end. Everybody’s involved in the process right from the very start and they take pride in what they’re doing.

In the workshop, they are supervised and learn how to use power tools. When they have passed their food hygiene course they can then work in the kitchen and serve customers. Operating the till helps them to learn about money management, it also helps them to improve their social skills by interacting with customers.

Steve Smith, one of the founders of Discover U, tells us of how for so long they have been told ‘you can’t do it because…’, at Discover U, volunteers will support people to do tasks on their own, build their confidence and tell them ‘you can do it!’

We hope you enjoy this short film we have made to spotlight this amazing group in Dudley.

If you would like to find out more about Discover U, visit their website www.discoveru2015.org or Facebook page. Or why not pay them a visit? They are open Mon-Thu from 9.30 until 4, they also have a stall at Kingswinford market on most Saturdays during the warmer months.

 

A lifetime of volunteering -Steve Mukanovic [aka Steve Ford]

Steve was a volunteer for 35 years, supporting Dudley Hospital Radio and then  the Children’s Ward at Russells Hall Hospital.  He was also a volunteer for Dudley CVS for many years, driving our minibuses around the borough offering the elderly and disabled an opportunity to enjoy social activities. His warm personality and sense of humour made him very popular with his passengers, who always left the bus with a smile on their face.

In 2016 Steve Mukanovic was awarded the Children & Families Main Award at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2016, for his outstanding contribution to making children’s stays in hospital more pleasant and in recognition of making 500+ local children’s dreams come true. Everything from riding in a helicopter or a Ferrari, to meeting a celebrity or smashing gnomes!

His nominator Linda tells us just what made him so special. She said:

“He is not only an inspiration to us all but is also truly humbling. You would have to really meet him to understand his charisma and unique sense of fun, he is truly a one off and we are so proud that he chooses to help us.  It would be the best thing ever to give him some of the recognition he truly deserves especially as he is rather down awaiting further surgery.”

 Steve’s presentation photo and nomination film may be viewed by following this link

Midlands Film and Art’s Character Portraits Project 2018

In 2018 Dudley CVS were approached by Midlands Art Yard to help them identify 12 local community volunteers to take part in their Characters Portrait Project, where they would be a feature of a unique piece of artwork.

Steve’s Character Portraits Project video may be viewed here and it’s wonderful to hear him talking about his passion for volunteering and the joy he got from it.

In the video Steve shared his thoughts on volunteering:

“Volunteering has kept me active physically and mentally, and hopefully there’s 500 children from the Dudley area who had their wish come true already.

 As a volunteer of course you don’t get paid for what you do not in financial terms, but to see that smile how can you put a price on that? Then of course you’ve got the day itself when you meet up and you see them lift off in that helicopter, or set off in that car so you get another smile, and you get a smile from the family and that’s a very fulfilling it’s very rewarding.”

 

Team Santa Elf

Steve with Sarah Alliband and Jayne Waltho

In October 2018 Steve joined the volunteer elves supporting Operation Santa Dudley borough and spent 6 weeks, sorting and wrapping gifts in the grotto.  He also attended the special Christmas party on 17th December at the Court House carvery in Kingswinford along with the other elves, helping us set up the room and entertaining the 50+ children, and their parents who attended.

 

We were sorry to hear that Steve passed away in December 2018 and will be sadly missed.  There was a lovely feature in the Express & Star.

Eileen from Operation Santa said:

“Steve was just 100 per cent the nicest man. The outpouring of love for him is incredible. He was an absolute star.”

 

 

 

 

The Big Lottery Fund invests in CoLab Dudley

We have good news. The Big Lottery Fund has agreed to invest in our Colab Dudley work. CoLab Dudley is a social lab in Dudley town centre which has developed through work led by Dudley CVS over the last eight years, and has been made possible through a collaboration with Gather Dudley CIC and UnLtd.

The investment from the Big Lottery Fund means that we can continue to build a platform of trust in the town, one which makes it easier for people to grow and maintain fruitful relationships.

The money will help us over the next three years: in part with resources, but also it gives us a boost to know that Big Lottery appreciates this way of working.

We’ve been talking to the Lottery team for nearly a year. The funding is not for us to provide services but to support the skills, approach, ideas, space and lab team that help connect people in Dudley.

Emergent Cultures

For the last two years, CoLab Dudley has been experimenting and making that case to build this platform, starting in the town centre. Together we make it easier for people in Dudley to create, share, make, do and learn things together.

This means that at the heart of our work is relationships. The friendships formed when care is taken to welcome everyone. The pleasure people experience in passing on knowledge and practical skills to others. Connections between local creatives who make, perform, exhibit and trade spaces which are open to all. Support and encouragement shared between emerging and established social entrepreneurs making change in the same town. Our powerful relationships with place and the natural world. A collective sense of possibility nurtured when we turn ideas into experiments and learn together.

In the last year CoLab has helped with: Trade Schools, Crafternoons, Make Fest, Do Fest, Edible Dudley and many other ways in which people come together. It takes time, effort, ideas and persistence and helps people shape their lives in many ways, as the audio clip below highlights.

These are some of the elements of the platform:

Place and Spaces: We create access to all kinds of spaces and support for people to connect, collaborate, test and incubate activities, projects and social enterprises. Our focus is currently on the High Street and St Thomas Quarter.

Inspiration and innovation: The lab draws on and shares inspiration from anywhere where people are collaborating and sharing to create social good. The inspiration acts as a curio and a catalyst for people who want to try something new or change things around them and their family or friends.

Design and Detectorism: The platform approach brings together two very conscious ways or working: we use simple design methods to help people explore what they want to do and test and experiment with their ideas. We also encourage people to actively watch what is happening, record it and learn from that, a method we call this detectorism.

Network Weaving: The spaces and the things people do together help create relationships. In the lab we also deliberately think about networks of people and consciously connect people up.

You can follow progress with our lab experiments and interact with our research through the CoLab Dudley publication on Medium.

Bored to Tears

There are over 6000 people in Dudley who have been diagnosed with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and most likely many more undiagnosed. COPD might be something you have never even heard of – or might affect you personally, but it is a condition that is supported by the Dudley Airtime group. The group is facilitated by Integrated Plus, a Dudley CVS social prescribing project,  have been meeting since 2016 at DY1 Community Building on Stafford Street, where the group is held each Thursday from 1pm. The aim of the group, funded through The Health Foundation, and most recently through Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group and Public Health, is to provide a peer-led group supporting people with respiratory conditions, to reduce social isolation and take pressure off the NHS by reducing hospital admissions and GP surgery appointments that relate to the disease, by providing a safe, caring environment for people to learn how to control and manage their condition better, meet with others experiencing similar challenges, and to take part in enjoyable activities, with lashings of tea and cake of course.

Airtime Dudley has made a particular impact on the life of Angela, who has been attending the group since August 2016. At this time, Angela was feeling increasingly low in mood, had become very isolated, and had no peer groups – in fact she was, in her own words, “bored to tears”.

Angela has made many friends through attending Airtime, and being part of the group has had a wider impact on her, and others. She now supports Airtime through identifying speakers to attend and present to the group. Through Airtime, Angela came into contact with Healthwatch Dudley and gave a talk to The Peoples Network about Airtime. She went on to become a member of The Peoples Network and now supports recruitment within the NHS, and sits on the Voluntary Sector Innovation Fund panel. She was also part of a team tasked with simplifying Dudley Safeguarding online process. Angela keeps a portfolio of all the work she does with Dudley Healthwatch and The Peoples Network, and explained that ‘I would never have been connected with the if it wasn’t for Airtime’

Angela has also gone on to support the creation of a general social group – ‘Friday Friends’, and has supported people with other conditions, such as ME, to make friends and connect. She has even completed a sponsored walk for The Lung Foundation, raising £100. Angela also has begun to meet some new friend’s she has made at a local social club.

Along with some other members of the Airtime Group, Angela worked on simplifying information for Dudley Council employees. A large book, detailing many long term health conditions and illnesses. These are now condensed to a simple A4 handout, giving a brief explanation of each condition or illness.

Through Winter Warmth attending Airtime to give a talk on their services, Angela has had a new boiler installed at home, as well as a wet room and stair lift installed into her property after Winter Warmth put her in contact with Dudley Home Improvement Service.

Angela has kept a portfolio of all the work she has been involved in with the council and Healthwatch Dudley, and is very proud of the changes she has helped to implement. Angela said that she would never have been in a position to be asked to do this work without being a member of Airtime. It was due to Airtime that those connections were made and cultivated.

The Airtime project was evaluated by Coventry University, who has produced a short video on their findings, in which Angela, and other members of the group feature below.

 

Angela feels coming to the group have transformed her life. ‘Airtime has given me quality of life, has built my confidence and I have made lots of good friends. We’re not labelled at no good, not fit for anything…I’ve had a new lease of life.

Airtime Dudley is free and runs each Thursday from 1pm – 3pm at DY1 Community Building, Stafford Street, Dudley, DY1 1RT and is open to anyone suffering with a chronic ling conditions such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or bronchiectasis.

Friday Friends is also based at the DY1 Community Building, and runs on the second and last Friday of each month from 1pm – 3pm. A small charge of £1 is asked to cover refreshments and is open to the general public looking to meet with others and socialise.

New members are welcome, and for any further information please feel free to contact Terry Gee on 01384 217056

A place to connect and make lasting friendships: Lye Men’s Group

The idea for The Men’s Group began in 2015 when my colleague Nick Tromans, the Integrated Plus Locality Link Officer for Stourbridge, Wollescote and Lye, had a high number of referrals for men with similar mental health needs and social isolation.  This led Nick to Reverend Simon Falshaw the Vicar from Christ Church in Lye and they discussed the need to offer a place for men to come and connect with each other.  The church was interested in supporting the idea and offered the church hall as a place to host the group.  A successful funding bid to the Near Neighbours Fund was approved and this helped start the group and pay for room hire.

The main factor for the success of the group is the volunteers who help run the group, they set up the room, serve refreshments and ensure a warm and friendly welcome to everybody who attends.  They can empathise with the group because they have had similar experiences and are well placed to offer peer to peer support.  Andrew was the first volunteer and he fostered an atmosphere of calm, respect and empathy.  Unfortunately, Andrew died suddenly in 2017 but his ethos remains within the group. Nick and I are involved in some aspects of the running of the group but the volunteers are the mainstay of the group and are vital and committed to its ongoing success.

The group has blossomed and three years on it is still going strong.  We have men aged from 19 to 90 in the group.  Over 130 men have attended the group in total and there are around 20-25 men from a pool of about 40 who attend every week.  Over the past few years we have had lots of activities at the group including, Get Cooking courses, glass engraving, bread making and well-being sessions.  The group also have regular cooked breakfasts, pool and darts tournaments and celebrations for Eid and Christmas.  There is no pressure for anybody to be involved in the activities and they are welcome to come and have a cup of tea and do their own thing.

Peer support reduces loneliness and isolation and improves self-esteem and confidence, this is certainly evident in the group.  Many positive and enduring friendships have been made by those attending the group.  People attend together and those in the group with limited mobility and difficulty attending have lifts arranged with friends they have met in the group.  If somebody has not attended in a while people rally round and see if they can help.  Friends meet outside of the group and do social activities together and meet at each other’s homes independent of the group, some have even gone on holiday together.  Another major reason for the success of the group is the non-judgemental attitude of all who attend and volunteer, it is inspiring and makes for a smoothly run and supportive group.

Barry began attending the group supported by his wife and Nick and has now become a regular attendee.  He has made new friends who he looks forward to spending time with in the group.  His friendships have developed further and he now meets up with his new friends outside of the group at home and in social situations.  Barry said he was not aware of any groups or activities like this in his local area and he said the group and the friendships he has made have ‘lifted me off the floor and given me something to look forward to.’

Those men who attend who can afford to make a donation can contribute to the running of the session.  Using an asset-based approach and working in partnerships with the local council and other organisations has enabled the group to run for little cost and has further helped the success of the group.

If you would like more information about the Men’s Group contact gary@dudleycvs.org.uk

Find out more about how Integrated Plus are supporting people to become more involved, connected and active in their communities at https://integratedplusblog.com/about/