Lots on offer to support new and experienced trustees this Trustees’ Week

Trustees’ Week has landed again and I wanted to share some of the great resources out there that can help you become a better trustee, as well as invite you to an informal Trustees Week chat that we’re hosting alongside our colleagues from SCVO. Many of these resources will help you all year long, whether you’re thinking of become a trustee, you’re new to the role or you want to build upon your experience.

Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. 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.

Trustees’ Week is an annual campaign to showcase the wonderful work trustees do and to open up opportunities for more people to become trustees from all walks of life.

The Trustees’ Week website is a great starting point for information about trustees and the events and resources open to them. Here are some of my picks from the big programme of guidance, events and activities happening across the country, many of which you can access online.

Events during Trustees Week

Getting on Board’s Festival of Trusteeship

“It’s for people who want to become trustees, trustees who want to keep learning and developing, and for charity leaders who want to understand best practice in trustee recruitment and diversity.

We’ll have an action-packed week of events, with workshops, Ted-style talks, networking events, Q&A clinics, and more.

If you want to learn about: youth leadership, anti-racism in the boardroom, anti-ageism, charity finances, ableism, how to recruit amazing candidates, anti-sexism, how to manage volunteers, diversity & inclusion, safeguarding for trustees, how to be a strategic force for change, what charitable impact is and how to drive it forwards as a trustee, and even more… join us at the Festival of Trusteeship!

There’s also lots of webinars, workshops and discussions covering topics such as board diversity, governance in challenging times, recruiting new trustees and more. Find the full list here.

On Friday, we’re jointly hosting a Trustees’ Week chat with our colleagues from SCVO. Intentionally without an agenda, you’ll be free to join us to learn more about trusteeship, ask specific questions or share your experience and expertise. If you’d like to join us on this Zoom call, please register here.

Resources for trustees

The Charity Commission’s new ‘take 5’ guides

The Charity Commission has written new 5 minute guides, covering the top 5 areas of trustee responsibilities:

The Essential Trustee

The Charity Commission’s core guidance for charity trustees, which covers the legal duties and responsibilities of charity trustees.

The Charity Governance Code

A practical tool for charities and their trustees to develop high standards of governance.

NCVO Good Trustee Guide

Primarily for new trustees. This guide is available to NCVO members and has been made available to non-members until 9 November.

NCVO Trustee Recruitment Pack

A toolkit for small charities looking to recruit new trustees. This is available to NCVO members and has been made available to non-members until 9 November.

NCVO also has great resources and tools available all year round to help you to improve your governance. Visit https://knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/ for more.

Finally, we offer training to any Dudley-based charity on the roles and responsibilities of trustees using The Essential Trustee and the Charity Governance Code. This training takes boards through the principles of trusteeship and helps you to identify gaps, providing you with support, guidance and knowhow to improve your board’s performance. Please get in touch if you’d like this training.

 

Celebrating Covid Heroes in 2020

We have been distributing some thank you packs to local volunteers who really made a difference during the Covid-19 Pandemic, supporting individuals and communities in all sorts of ways. They have been asked to share a selfie with us and we thought it would be wonderful to share these superstars in regular posts.

Here is a gallery of the first superstars who have sent us their selfie!

Why not nominate your Covid Hero/es today!

2020 has been an unprecedented time for us all with the Covid-19 Pandemic and Dudley CVS feels that this year’s awards need to recognise and reflect the outstanding contributions made by both individuals and groups, to support those most vulnerable during these challenging times. We wish to recognise volunteers, paid staff and local groups who have truly gone the extra mile.

Please visit our Dudley CVS Covid Heroes Awards 2020 page and nominate today!

Dudley High Intensity User Social Prescribing Service continues to achieve excellent results

Vulnerable patients are continuing to benefit from the High Intensity User (HIU) project in Dudley, which is now entering its third year.

Year one saw a 33% reduction in A&E attendance and a 41% reduction in inpatient admissions saving the NHS over £492,995. Our second annual evaluation report for year two has seen a 75% reduction in A&E attendances and a 78% reduction in inpatient admissions saving the NHS over £546,540. New data has shown a 66% reduction in West Midlands Ambulance Service call outs with an additional saving of £230,193.

Delivered by the Dudley CVS Integrated Plus social prescribing team and match-funded by Dudley CCG and the Department of Health, the service offers a robust way of reducing avoidable frequent user activity to 999, A&E, and hospital admissions, freeing up front line resources to improve care for all patients and reduce costs.

The two Link Workers have continued to work in a flexible non-clinical way providing tailored support to frequent users of emergency services. The service has benefitted from being able to spot purchase groups, activities and services from our Voluntary Sector Fluid Floating Fund. So far we have been able to commission five different organisations to deliver creative activities, counselling, peer support groups, outdoor learning and housing and benefits support.

In addition to this we have been able to allocate personal health budgets up to the value of £100 per client. This has been a really positive intervention enabling Link Workers to work in a person centred way. Personal health budgets have been used to pay for transport to peer support groups which was previously a barrier and also items such as tablet computers to enable isolated clients to connect with the outside world.

A local service user said, “I needed more than a worker, I needed a friend, someone who could help me get in touch with the outside world, I felt so lonely and isolated. When I first met Kelly I had been in hospital several times, I was suicidal, and had given up, whereas now I enjoy life and am reconnected with friends.”

Another said,“This service has been extremely helpful, from the first visit from Danielle I was put at ease, she listened to me and I truly felt my issues were understood, which in turn enabled her to help me identify new avenues to explore. I am looking forward to starting my new volunteering role and giving something back”

Dudley CVS are delighted with the positive outcomes that the project is achieving. You can read the full evaluation report below:

Young Sketch Bookers: A lockdown project from Black Country Arts Council to help children and families to be creative

I’m really pleased to share the great news that Black Country Arts Council has received an Creative Communities commission from Creative Black Country to pilot a project called Young Sketch Bookers, which aims to bridge the gap between creative projects and community-focused outreach by offering free art packs to be distributed through the Black Country Foodbank and Dudley Performing Arts to children that may have barriers to learning.

Art Supplies 2

It’s a brand new project for the new-look Black Country Arts Council. For the last few years I’ve been supporting this small charity that has been running for a whopping 73 years to promote arts and creativity for everyone. I’m really pleased that it’s been able to launch a project in the midst of challenging circumstances.

In 2018, the charity faced a crossroads. Its board of trustees felt that they had taken the charity as far as they could in a changing world. The future was either to breathe new life into the charity by handing its reins to a new board of trustees or to close the charity completely. One long-standing member felt strongly that if the right people could be found, Black Country Arts Council could be rejuvenated and become a powerful network for promoting all art forms across the Black Country.

Together, we helped to identify and engage people who were interested in transforming Black Country Arts Council and soon we had a group of 7 potential new trustees who would come together as a sub-committee to explore what Black Country Arts Council could be. I helped the potential new trustees to do some visioning for the organisation and explore ways they could re-engage with and expand its membership. We looked at the constitution, thought about networks, what the offer was, how it could communicate, raise its profile and build its base with small scale projects. I also gave a brief workshop on the legal duties of trustees and helped the potential new trustees to liaise with the then current trustees so that there could be a seamless handover.

This resulted in a general meeting at which the new trustees were elected. The outgoing trustees gave some lovely encouragement and shared ideas for forthcoming activities that the Black Country Arts Council could get involved in (sadly, activities that will be cancelled or at least postponed in the current circumstances).

At about the same time, Creative Black Country was gearing up to launch its Arts Council funded project Creative People and Places into Dudley. This was a great opportunity for Black Country Arts Council to expand its networks and I was really pleased to see members at one of Creative Black Country’s meet-up events.

Thankfully, the connection that had been established meant that Black Country Arts Council trustees were organised enough to be able to bid to Creative Black Country’s Creative Communities programme, which now focused on kickstarting arts activities that could take place during the lockdown.

Art Supplies

Which brings us to the here and now! With a grant of under £1,000, Black Country Arts Council will be putting together 200 arts packs containing a range of accessible and quality art supplies, and a leaflet offering fun ideas for creative projects that children can engage in during the lockdown. The dedicated team of volunteers includes artists who will design the leaflet for the packs and offer instructional “follow along” videos through Black Country Arts  social media, supported by a British Sign Language interpreter to ensure everyone can be included.

These packs will provide support for up to 200 families across the region, offering ways for parents to engage their children, promote artistic interest and learn new skills. The packs will be distributed by Black Country Foodbank and Dudley Performing Arts to make sure they go to families that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and who may have barriers to accessing good quality arts materials.

The project-leads hope to flood social media with art, positivity and togetherness by encouraging people to post their creations using the #YoungSketchBookers hashtag and when the lockdown is eventually lifted there will be an exhibition of the artwork created, giving children a sense of achievement and community participation by bringing together everyone involved.

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It sounds like such a positive project and I’m looking forward to checking out and celebrating the creativity of local children. I think we could all do with some of that right now!

Follow Black Country Arts Council for more:

Facebook: @dudleyartscouncil

Instagram: @blackcountryartscouncil

Twitter: @BlackCountryArts

Resources for charities and not-for-profits during the Coronavirus pandemic

It’s probably fair to say that it’s an uncertain time for the not-for-profit sector. The Coronavirus pandemic has affected organisations in different ways, depending on their activities, their size or how they’re funded. Some have had to suspend their activities; others have continued but scaled down; some have had their income streams completely dry up; others have faced an unprecendented increase in demand. Odds are also that added into that mix have been the challenges of doing things differently, loss of staff or volunteers due to sickness, shielding or furlough, and mental health implications.

Reassuringly, people have come forward in their droves to help in their community; this is very welcome and many of us are beginning to think about how this impetus is best harnessed as we enter new phases. The increase in volunteering could pose challenges in itself as organisations try to ensure that people volunteer safely.

I wanted to bring together some of the useful things we’ve been sharing to help not-for-profits over the past few months, share what’s coming up and pose some questions for us to explore over the next few months.

I’ll start with what’s coming up.

Next week is Small Charity Week and there are lots of events listed on the Small Charity Week website. We’re hosting three events next week.

Virtual drop in SCW

On Tuesday, we’ll host a virtual drop-in for small charities, voluntary groups & nonprofits. We can chat about anything to do with running a not-for-profit. We’ll also be joined by Jade from Severn Trent Community Fund and John from The National Lottery Community Fund.

Charity governance code SCW

On Thursday, we’ll run a brief training workshop on the Charity Governance Code to help trustees understand their role. It will be most useful for trustees of registered charities or people who are thinking of registering their organisation as a charity.

Sector catch up

And on Friday, we’ll host a sector catch up for charities, voluntary groups and other nonprofits. An opportunity to network, to catch up with developments and to discuss moving forward through the Covid19 pandemic.

NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations) is also hosting a webinar on ‘Building organisational resilience: things for small charities to consider‘ next Wednesday.

This builds on the excellent series of webinars NCVO has produced on a whole range of topics, from protecting people, financial planning and making decisions during the Coronavirus pandemic. The webinars are all recorded and published on Youtube, so don’t worry if you’ve missed any; you can access them here.

I recently caught the recent NCVO webinar on ‘Board leadership: Supporting your charity through the next phase of the Coronavirus pandemic’

It encourages you to think about where your board of trustees are currently. Have they been helping out with delivery recently? It’s important to understand where the board is so that it can move on from emergency / survival stage and into the next phase; easing the board from management into governance and setting the charity’s direction will be important. And if planning might seem a futile exercise at the moment, there are some tools and tips for planning during uncertain times.

Finally, in case you missed our updates on our news page and in our regular email bulletin (you can sign up to that here), here’s a round up of the things we’ve put together over the last few months. The first two links are still regularly updated as the situation is changing quickly:

Help for not-for-profits

This resource covers

  • government guidance on working and providing services during the pandemic
  • guidance on governing your organisation, holding meetings, AGMs and other legal compliance matters
  • HR tools
  • financial help

It is regularly updated and visiting the page will always give you the most up-to-date version.

Funders for Covid-19

Covid19 funding

This is a comprehensive list of funders that have grants programmes for projects that will support the community during the ongoing pandemic.

It is regularly updated and visiting the page will always give you the most up-to-date version.

Helping in your community during Covid-19

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For both individuals who want to help and groups that have been taking on more volunteers during the period. This contains

  • hints and tips for what individual volunteers can do to keep themselves and others safe
  • ideas for what people can do to help depending on their circumstances
  • help and resources for groups that involve volunteers covering safety, confidentiality, lone working guidance and more.

We are still offering one-to-one support to Dudley borough groups. We can offer this support either by email or by online meetings. We do have quite a bit of demand so we appreciate your patience on this; please don’t hesitate to make contact with us!

#VolunteersWeek2020 – A round-up of our virtual week of celebration and a heartfelt thank you to all our volunteer stars!

This week we’ve been celebrating #VolunteersWeek2020 and saying a special thank you to volunteers who have been supporting their communities through our six virtual Covid-19 support networks across Dudley borough. These incredible volunteers have worked tirelessly to support local vulnerable people, and those self-isolating or shielding, helping with medication collections, essential shopping, or simply befriending to lessen feelings of isolation, loneliness and uncertainty during these difficult times.

We’ve heard so many heart-warming stories of kindness, companionship and newfound friendships. We’ve also heard how volunteers have gone the extra mile to help people to feel a little bit of normality during lockdown, including deliveries of Friday night fish and chips! Volunteers have responded with such positivity and we’ve seen overwhelming acts of kindness.

As Volunteers Week draws to a close, we look back at just a handful of some of the wonderful stories shared by volunteers and our staff. We also want to pass on the many warm messages of thanks that we’ve received on behalf of the people supported. Many have said how incredibly grateful they are to have had the support of volunteers through these uncertain and difficult times. (Visit our Dudley CVS Covid Heroes Awards 2020 page to find out more about how to nominate your Covid hero/es.)

On Wednesday, Becky, our Small Groups Officer, shared a story about Stourbridge Covid-19 Community Support Group, a brand new mutual aid group that has been working with us since the beginning of lockdown. The group has more than 200 volunteers making shopping trips, collecting medications or offering companionship over the phone. Read the full post here

We’ve shared the stories of volunteer stars, Sheila, Phil, Sam, Sharon, Francesca, Dave, Jayne and Steve, talking about their volunteer experience and how it’s made a difference their lives and the lives of others. Here are some of those stories… 

 “I was quickly matched up with three people who needed help with their shopping.  When I first rang to introduce myself, I was a little nervous but we soon started to get to know each other.  We have now got into a lovely little weekly routine starting with a chat for the shopping lists and a chance to find out a little bit more about each other.  My Mum is vulnerable and lives in Shrewsbury so when we went into lockdown I knew that my sister would take care of her but I felt a bit useless. So, I started this process to help where I could.  What I didn’t expect was to find three different, lovely people who are so grateful of my help but, in turn, have also helped me through these strange and unprecedented times by giving me a sense of purpose.

I feel like we have sailed a path through these stormy waters together and we will keep going until we are able to step out onto a safer shore having battled this storm in the best way we can, with care and kindness for each other. We will never forget one another and I hope one day, when all this is over, we may be able to sit down and have a proper conversation over a nice cup of tea.”

Sheila Jones, volunteer.

Read more…

Nothing is too much trouble for Phil, and over the last 10 weeks, he has supported a number of people with their weekly shopping trips along with undertaking on average two medicine collection runs per week.

“I have volunteered for Operation Santa with my wife Sarah and when I heard Dudley CVS needed help during this current crisis I offered my help.

I was allocated an area and my role is mainly collecting and delivering prescriptions for vulnerable residents living in my local area. I’ve also been asked to help with some shopping and I shop for one lovely old couple every Thursday Morning.

I have earned the role of  ‘go-to source’ for any emergency requests as I am always willing and happy to drop everything and get the job done, and now have the nickname Thunderbird 1!

I have enjoyed meeting people living in my local area and also establishing a good relationship with local pharmacies. To have a sense of purpose during these difficult times has had a very positive effect on me.”

Read more… 

Volunteer, Francesca, said:

“Volunteering has been good for me too. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but it’s been very rewarding.

I’ve met some lovely people that (although our ages may differ) have become good friends. Being forwarded emails of thanks makes me realise how fortunate I am to be able to help others and not be reliant on the kindness of strangers – I try my best for them and it’s good to know they are happy with my efforts. I’ve even enjoyed the shopping experience – it’s been challenging at times, but it’s provided some humorous moments in these strange times.

Equally, the people I’ve delivered to have been so kind and appreciative, it’s put a smile on my face on many days. They may be “stuck” in their houses, but their strength and resilience is inspirational. I hope should they need help once we’re “out” of this pandemic they will know they now have friends in the community who are ready to assist. I believe it’s important we all learn from this experience and gain a sense of community so that we can take some good from it!”

Rose Cook Monk shared her heartwarming story of newfound friendship. An older man she was supporting was rushed to hospital as he had fallen down the stairs of his maisonette. When the nurse asked if there was anyone they could call, Rose was the only person he could think of.

“I ring him to tell him I’m on my way and he puts the money in an envelope – I ask if he’s ok – he always says the same thing “I am now I’ve seen you bless you for looking after me”.

So why after such a short time with such little contact was I his only ‘friend’ – what on earth did this poor Man do before the lockdown? Who helped him? Who did he talk to?

There must be hundreds of people like him out there. Please if you live by an elderly person or even someone living on their own – keep yourself safe – socially distance yourself – but knock on their door – drop a note through their letterbox, check that they are okay. One face, one voice could make all the difference to their day.”

Read more…

Mother and daughter, Sam and Sharon, shared how they have been connecting with local isolated people.

“We have had a number of local residents in Kingswinford and Amblecote we have been shopping for, collecting prescriptions and offering a friendly chat on the phone when they need it.

We feel we have made a difference by allowing vulnerable people to have a connection to the outside world in this awful time. Without the volunteers, they wouldn’t have access to essentials at this difficult time. It has been a very rewarding experience and it’s brilliant to help the community where possible.”

Read more…

Dave has predominantly carried out collections of medication from chemists to deliver to vulnerable people.

“One man, in particular, stated that I was the first person he had seen face to face for a week and it was so refreshing for him. We chatted for about 20 minutes (at a safe distance of course).

I gave him my works number and told him that if he wanted a chat at anytime he could call me. He said that he had plenty of telephone calls but it was just nice to actually see someone and have a conversation.

I also support another Coseley resident who has not left his house since March. He is always very grateful for a quick chat when we deliver anything.​”

Steve and Jayne have been volunteering with Black Country Foodbank. They pay tribute to those wonderful people who are selflessly keeping the country going during the pandemic often at risk to themselves.

“I’ve kept my head down volunteering in the strange world of the Covid crisis but today need to pay tribute to WONDERFUL PEOPLE who give so much expecting little or nothing in return. My dear Jayne of whom I’m always proud has been volunteering with me since the start of the crisis three days a week at Black Country Foodbank with a brilliant group of like-minded volunteers whose only objective is to help those so much less fortunate. Thank you to all.”

Read more…

And, here, just one of the messages of thanks that was sent to us from a lady supported with essential shopping:

“I just wanted to thank you for arranging my shopping requirements, which arrived just after 7.00pm tonight. Your volunteer called me from her car after she had left the shopping on my doorstep, so she followed the separation guidance perfectly. The shopping was spot on, in every respect, and even though I did thank her, may I perhaps ask you to pass on my gratitude to her. I am a little embarrassed that I was unable to even offer her a contribution towards her additional fuel costs. Her voluntary actions have allowed me to relax now, and obviously this also wouldn’t have been possible without the actions of Gemma and yourself. The system works well! Thank you. Ironically, until he sadly passed away last July, for many years I was providing the same service to a 97 year old friend, never thinking that I would need similar help less than a year later. It goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner.”

Our Children, Young People and Families team shared stories of many incredible young people who are making a difference by getting involved to help and support others during this pandemic, delivering meals to families, shopping and collecting prescriptions for vulnerable people, baking cakes for key workers and producing information and resources to support other young people.

Tom an electrical engineer and Chloe a nursery assistant have both been furloughed so have plenty of time on their hands and wanted to help. Tom was clear from the start that he was not a ‘shopper’ and this would be his worst nightmare but he was happy to collect and deliver prescriptions which he did most days. They followed all of the social distancing guidelines and used hand sanitiser after each delivery. People were so incredibly grateful for their help, they got lots of smiles and waves which made it all worthwhile.

Katie is a student at Halesowen College and has been volunteering with Dudley CVS and partners including West Midlands Police for the past 5 years. Katie has a huge heart and passion to help others young or old.  A quick call to Katie any time of day with a chance to get involved will always result in a big yes, what time and where?  Katie arrives every time with a big smile and a huge amount of enthusiasm that is infectious.

During this pandemic volunteers from Black Country Wellbeing Hub, Dudley CVS and DMBC Public Health Colleagues delivered a massive 6000 meals to children across the borough in just 8 days. We calculated that just Katie and driver covered 376 miles and she alone must have jumped out of the car and run up drives to grateful families and smiley children at least 250 times. However this is not the end of Katie’s kindness, she has shopped for a family of 5 who are socially isolating due to their dad being shielded. She was the master of the Tesco scan gun!

Young Health Champion Becky has been busy writing blogs for www.dudleyyhc.wordpress.com. Becky has produced a number of flyers for young people on handwashing, things to do during lockdown and how young people can look after their emotional health.

Another Young Health Champion, Ash, has written a number of blogs providing information on dental hygiene during lockdown and other health-related information. Ash has also been shopping and collecting medication for local residents in Stourbridge.

We just want to finish by saying a heartfelt thank you to all our volunteers who have been supporting their communities through our Covid-19 support networks across Dudley borough. You’re all stars!


 

Why not nominate your Covid Hero/es today!

2020 has been an unprecedented time for us all with the Covid-19 Pandemic and Dudley CVS feels that this year’s awards need to recognise and reflect the outstanding contributions made by both individuals and groups, to support those most vulnerable during these challenging times. We wish to recognise volunteers, paid staff and local groups who have truly gone the extra mile.

Please visit our Dudley CVS Covid Heroes Awards 2020 page and nominate today!

Time to pause and reflect for Volunteers’ Week: A special thank you to volunteers from Stourbridge, Lye and Wollescote

It’s been quite a while since any of our team here at Dudley CVS blogged about our work. The reasons might be obvious; our work has changed beyond recognition since February as we’ve flexed to respond to and help our sector and our communities respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it might be fitting that our first post, now we’ve been able to pause for breath, comes in Volunteers’ Week, which we are celebrating virtually this year. I wanted to celebrate and thank an incredible group of volunteers that has been working tirelessly to support people who may have needed some extra help during lockdown.

The background

In early March, our team started exploring how we might support the sector and help people who might start to come forward to lend a hand safely. We felt that many groups would want to help, that new mutual aid groups would spring up and that people would want to roll up their sleeves. We weren’t disappointed on that score!

We established six virtual Covid-19 support networks which covered the whole borough in six areas along the same geographical lines as our Integrated Plus project. These networks consisted of CVS staff and partners such as the local authority, police, NHS services and other voluntary organisations such as Black Country Foodbank. At the same time, we put a call out for individual volunteers and voluntary groups to sign up with us so that we could ensure that support was co-ordinated.

DCVS Covid 19

Dudley borough didn’t disappoint! We had 600 individual volunteers sign up and we’ve been bowled over that people have stepped up in their numbers to do whatever they can.

Eileen is spending this week sharing stories from our star volunteers who have been giving so much to their communities at the most testing times. I want to share how an army of volunteers have helped people in Stourbridge, Lye and Wollescote in all sorts of ways.

The amazing volunteers!

Through the six virtual networks, we’ve been supporting people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as those with long-term conditions, as well as helping those who might be self-isolating or shielding. Networks have been receiving referrals from all sorts of places: GPs surgeries, local authority services, self-referrals to our helpline or the Black Country Radio helpline, Facebook, even from concerned friends and family members in different parts of the country.

While our Integrated Plus colleagues have helped to ensure that services are wrapped around the people that need them, us CVS leads in each area have been matching those volunteers to people that need some extra support with things like picking up medication, essential shopping or telephone befriending. The ideal has been to help foster relationships and promote neighbourly behaviours so that the support is less transactional and in the hope that this relationship continues, though we recognise that people’s circumstances can change.

We’ve been so grateful for any help our borough’s volunteers have been able to offer, whether it’s been a one-off medication delivery or more sustained support. I know that the willingness of so many to help has given us confidence that people are getting support and we hear constantly from the people referred to us that volunteers have been lifesavers!

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In Stourbridge, Lye and Wollescote, the areas I’ve been covering, I’ve been particularly lucky to have the magnificent support of Cat, Emma, Lee and the whole team involved in the Stourbridge Covid-19 Community Support Group, a brand new mutual aid group that got in touch with us as soon as we put the call out for volunteers and groups to work with us.

The group has more than 200 volunteers and is remarkably well-organised, quickly adopting systems and processes to make sure their volunteers and the individuals they support are kept safe. They’ve given me incredible confidence that the people I’m referring will get swift and appropriate help.

As well as responding to the hundreds of referrals I’ve made to them, allocating volunteers to make shopping trips, collect medications or offer companionship over the phone, the Stourbridge Community Support Group has been taking referrals themselves, through their Facebook page or their phone line. They also offer food parcels to people who have found their income unexpectedly cut off. Their support is pretty much around the clock and as lockdown starts to ease, they are still offering help.

I’ve spoken to more than 200 people that have been referred to us for support, some of whom I’ve spoken to more than once or twice and I’ve been really blown away by the connection I’m feeling to people I’ve only ‘met’. I’m sure this is magnified for the Stourbridge Community Support Group, since when I’ve made a referral, I’ve learned that the group keeps in touch with that person to offer ongoing support, which is astounding commitment. Another thing I’ve been struck by is the number of people who have been shielding or self-isolating saying that they would ordinarily be volunteering if their circumstances were different.

In our last network meeting, which has representatives from the Stourbridge Community Support Group, Dudley CVS, Integrated Plus, the local authority, NHS mental health services and other partners, Emma from the Stourbridge Community Support Group asked for some feedback from us so that they could better understand whether there was a continuing need for what they were offering. The responses overwhelmingly showed how services and partners perceived the volunteers’ fantastic contribution as of equal if not greater value! I shared my own gratefulness for the group by sharing an example of how responsive they have been in urgent situations which are not so straightforward. A couple of weeks ago we had a lady referred to us who should have received a government food parcel, which hadn’t arrived, leaving the lady with very little food. I contacted the local authority to try to get to the bottom of what had happened and to set up a food parcel. Given that we were near the end of the day and local authority staff are juggling all sorts of priorities in very challenging circumstances, I also got in touch with the group, since I knew they are constantly checking their referrals email. Within ten minutes, the ever-ready Lee responded to let me know that they would get a food parcel to the lady within the hour. (Our local authority colleagues also responded very quickly and they’re doing a wonderful job within our partnership in really challenging circumstances – it really is a great team effort!)

At the moment referrals have tailed off. This might be a reflection that people have become more accustomed to the situation and got support in place. It could be because there is now a centralised helpline and food distribution hub in place, led by the local authority. But I think it’s in no small part to the incredible volunteers across the whole borough who’ve now built relationships with the hundreds if not thousands of people that were referred to us throughout March and April and are continuing to support them now. We’re so grateful for their willingness to help people in their communities and hope we can harness this positivity as we tentatively find new ways of working.

My usual job is to support people to set up, run and organise their voluntary group, charity or social enterprise. It’s quite a change that I’ve come to rely on a voluntary group over the last few months. I hope that I can return the favour and help the Stourbridge Community Support Group and its volunteers to think about how they can build on the goodwill of the army of volunteers, the connections they’ve made, the people they’ve supported and develop community resilience that outlives the emergency situation. At the very least, I hope to be able to thank them face-to-face someday.

thank you heart text

Photo by Řaj Vaishnaw on Pexels.com

Thank you; you’re all stars.

If you would like to donate to the Stourbridge Community Support Group, to help it continue its work, you can do so here: https://bit.ly/3dtknAl.

Listen to our Podcast and learn more about ESF Black Country Community Grants

New for 2020, Dudley CVS podcasts!

For our first ever Dudley CVS podcast, we got together with colleagues from Dudley Council and Black Country Community Grants (run through Walsall Council) to talk about the next rounds of ESF Black Country Community Grants.

Listen and learn more about the programme and how to produce a good-quality application with Becky, Martin, Ruth and Jacki.

We’ll provide a transcript of this podcast as soon as we possibly can.

Operation Santa Dudley borough 2019 – another epic adventure!

Dudley CVS which is a registered charity, has run its Operation Santa appeal for over 40 years and in 2019 was proud once again to work together to connect, collaborate and build partnerships with individuals, organisations, groups and businesses across Dudley borough, and beyond! It was been another whirlwind of activity with 12994 donations and some amazing support, and goodwill along the way.  It’s truly been another phenomenal effort with more support than ever from kind-hearted individuals, groups, societies, statutory partners and businesses. Unfortunately there was also an 86% increase in requests for support!

Who do we support?

We try to provide a main present for children and young people who would otherwise receive nothing for Christmas.  This year we received 95 requests for support, with a maximum limit per request of 25 children, from schools, social workers, children’s services, children’s centres, other statutory partners, voluntary, community and faith sector groups.  There were also requests for grotto presents or presents for Christmas parties, which we did our best to fulfil.

#Team Santa

Our wonderful team of committed elves were busier than ever. Thanks to Trev, Rose, Jayne, Steve, Sarah and Phil for their time and support. These lovely people are all volunteers who give their time around already busy lives.

Black Country Radio

Lee Southerton – Volks Magic, Garry Aulton – Beerbuz/VDubz in the Valley with Clive Payne – BCR

This year we were blessed to be offered a superb location for our grotto with Black Country Radio at their studio in Brierley Hill and the whole team really went the extra mile to support us.  They produced a special advert which they ran throughout November and December, invited us along to their shows to share our progress and challenges, and even added a special section on their website, with links and a contact form. They secured wonderful press coverage for our launch on 7th November, including the Express & Star reporter, photographer and also Radio WM, helping us raise our profile and even ran a special programme where our launch guests such as the Hope Centre, Top Church Training, Volks Magic and VDubz were interviewed live on air.

Brett Harris and his angels from Blaze Hair

Our committed Business Ambassadors were once again on a mission to generate as many donations as possible and achieved an amazing 2250 donations this year. They reached out to their network of supporters and helpers, including a fabulous donation of hundreds of brand new books from All Saints Church, Claverley.

Santa’s a Gangster and Volks Magic

Lee Southerton [Volks Magic/Santas a Gangster] with the Mayor of Dudley [Cllr David Stanley]

We were very fortunate to have Lee Southerton and his ‘Santa’s a Gangster’ supporters join us in 2017 and their ongoing support is invaluable to our appeal each year.  This year they raised a phenomenal £11,000 from their supporters and the VW Beetle Cabriolet Prize Draw.  This meant we were able to keep the grotto topped up with presents for children and young people who may otherwise think that Santa had forgotten them. A number of the supporters attended our appeal launch event in November.

Lee’s friend Jim Cousins, who was a keen supporter, passed away in early November and those attending his wake were asked to bring toys and gifts along to his final cruise, with over 300 presents delivered to the grotto directly afterwards.

This year these supporters generated an amazing 3022 donations in addition to their fundraising efforts!

Beerbuz and VDubz in the Valley

Garry and Hayley Aulton who run Beerbuz and organise an annual VW gathering called VDubz in the Valley raised a phenomenal £3500 at the event’s charity auction in September to add to the Santa’s a Gangster appeal.  They attended the launch and were able to share photos of the gifts which were purchased with the money they raised. Garry and Hayley were recognised with a special award at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2019.

Kingswinford Charity Football Club

We were lucky that the wonderful team of Jason, Carl, Mike and Simon were back to support us again this year, with a huge toy shop and funding another Christmas party with entertainment, hot Christmas dinner and a present from Santa at DY1 Venue. There was a magical grotto for Santa to sit in and the children had a wonderful afternoon as always.  The guys were also recognised with special 20 year long service certificates at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2019.

The Court House Carvery

Chris, Paul and Paula generously offered 100 free Christmas carveries for local kids again this year, despite the fact that the pub had been sold and they had to cease trading on 17th December immediately after our second Christmas carvery party. Paul again played Santa and gave every child a present. Their generosity was also recognised with a special award at our Dudley Volunteer Awards in 2019.

Prospect Coaches and Merry Hill Private Hire

We were grateful to secure free coaches again to transport the children to the Court House for their lunch this year and Adam Davies from Merry Hill Private Hire said why he was delighted to support Operation Santa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mayor of Dudley, Dudley MBC staff and councillors

Maren Lilley in the Council House foyer with some of the donations

We were once again fortunate that the Mayor, Dudley MBC staff and councillors again supported our appeal.  Special thanks to the Mayor, Cllr David Stanley and Maren Lilley, who organises the appeal across DMBC and the lovely staff, and councillors who helped this year.

 

Black Country Wenches

Michelle and Karen were kind enough to support us this year. They visited the grotto and made a special video which was very popular, with over 6000 views. You can watch the video on their Facebook page here: https://tinyurl.com/wh3sz66

Through their connections we were also able to channel some party presents to local foster children and a box of tennis balls was sent to the Greyhound Trust.

Daz Rudge and Craig Knowles [Virgin Media]

Daz and Craig who work for a well-known local media provider cycled an incredible 30K a day throughout November at a local leisure centre and raised a fabulous £675 in sponsorship, which they spent on toys for the appeal. Here they are unloading their van of goodies.

Glynne After School Club

The children from this club have been supporting us for several years and each child chooses a toy to donate that they would like themselves to give to another child who may get nothing for Christmas.  They visit us in the grotto each year and we always take a photo as a souvenir of their visit. [Here are Dean, Alexa, Ellie and Carley when they dropped off their gifts]

Brierley Hill Market

Special thanks to Santa for flying back from the North Pole especially to donate the money he raised at Christmas, in his grotto in Brierley Hill Market. Here he is presenting Eileen from Operation Santa with £350 to kick start Operation Santa 2020. Grateful thanks to Jason Keen, Malcolm Bridgwater and Steven Bridgwater for their efforts. So lovely that a local market and its traders want to make sure local kids don’t think Santa has forgotten them.

Geoff Hill Charitable Trust

Geoff Hill was a long-term supporter of our Operation Santa appeal and Sue Hill, his wife has generously continued his legacy again this year, for which we are very appreciative.

Feedback from those we have supported

Supporters List

We had so many lovely people who have supported us this year and here is a full list is available here: https://wp.me/P1ZP0K-x

Every picture tells a story

Photos from this year’s Operation Santa are available here: https://wp.me/P1ZP0K-MX

Why not follow us to see what we are up to and help us spread the word

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