What We Do
Our service to the community is based on weekly 'drop-in' sessions held each Tuesday between 11:00 and 12:30 at St. Thomas's Parish Centre in Caunce Street, Blackpool. Our 'tagline' is 'Care - Advice - Food - Encouragement' and how we put this into practice will be described after an overview of our weekly activities.
Note: You may notice that there are no photographs of the people attending our sessions on this website. This is because we respect their privacy and recognise the restrictions in the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Preparations for the Weekly Sessions
Volunteers start arriving at around midday each Monday to arrange tables and chairs, sanitise tables, collect food from the Blackpool Food Bank, take delivery of food we have purchased from our wholesalers, start food preparation for the following day and organise any food that is available for those attending Tuesday 'drop-in' sessions to take away with them when they leave.
Three of the volunteers take it in turns to collect from Blackpool Foodbank; this is a typical car load including bread, cakes, drinks and fresh vegetables.
Weekly 'Drop-in' Sessions
Volunteers are on hand again on Tuesday morning from about 09:30 to complete preparations and ensure everything is ready. A short briefing session is held before the session starts to confirm responsibilities for the day, explain the 'menu of the day' and make any announcements. Finally one of the volunteers will say a prayer, after which people are invited in and found a seat at one of the tables.
Here are our volunteers just before opening the doors to let everyone in and also a group photo.
Volunteers make a point of welcoming everyone arriving. We need to admit people gradually to avoid overwhelming those serving food and drinks. One person chats to people in the queue and another greets them at the door to the hall. More volunteers continue the 'greeting' while they seat people. They then take orders for meals and drinks and pass them to the kitchen. Food and drinks are served to visitors at the tables and cleared away when they have finished.
Finally a volunteer supervises the distribution of takeaway barm cakes and any non-perishable food items we have available.
Community members leave the hall by the rear door to avoid congestion.
After everyone has left comes the cleaning-up. Tables are cleaned, tables and chairs are stacked away, a great deal of washing-up is done, the floor swept and rubbish disposed of.
The first way we show care is in the way we try to deal with everyone: equally, kindly and non-judgementally. Whenever possible, volunteers find time to chat to members of the community and make them feel welcome.
- We have arranged facilities for the local NHS team to come along to our sessions to give people Covid and influenza vaccinations.
- We have facilitated visits by the Blackpool charity URPotential who work with individuals to increase their economic independence.
- We have facilitated vists by the charity Hope for Justice who made a presentation about Modern Slavery to volunteers and speak to members of the community attending our sessions.
Our weekly sessions are attended by Wellbeing Counsellor Gloria Birdsall who is funded by the charity. Provision is made for a shielded area where Gloria can hold confidential sessions with attendees.
We have very limited storage space, but usually have new underclothes, socks and toiletries which we give out when needed. In the Winter months we have a small stock thermos flasks and warm clothing.
We do not have qualified advisers but, with years of experience, we can often direct people to appropriate organisations ourselves. We also have a library of constantly-updated information leaflets to give out on various topics such as housing, debt or fuel problems.
- We have regular visits from Horizon - a charity that supports Blackpool residents and gives advice on alcohol, drugs and sexual health.
- We have had a visit from Cosy Homes in Lancashire - a charity that gives advice on keeping your home warm
- We have had a visit from CLEVR Money the local Credit Union who provided advice on savings and loans.
- We expect a visit from United Utilities in August who will be providing advice on benefits available to reduce utility bills.
Apart from our regular provision of hot meals and takeaway items, we make available additional items of food depending on what has been donated by individuals or the Blackpool Foodbank.
We are proud of the fact that we opened throughout the Covid epidemic, apart from a few weeks when we had to close due to government regulations. You can read more about how we adapted to the changing rules on our News Pages HERE.
We have an ever-changing goup of people attending but a fair number of 'regulars'. Over time we aim to build a relationship and provide general encouragement. For some, these sessions are the only community activity they are engaged in from one week to another.