Since March 2020 New Wortley Community Centre has been the Community Care Hub for people living in New Wortley and Armley. We are here to support people and families who need help during the pandemic who have been advised to shield or self-isolate.We can help with access to food, hygiene products etc or connect you with a friendly voice at the end of the telephone if you want a chat. You are not alone. Our friendly team of staff and volunteers are here to help our community!
Call 0113 376 0330. The line is open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm
Rhea started volunteering for NWCC in March as a part of the Community Care Volunteers Program created by Voluntary Action Leeds. Here is Rhea’s Story.
Who knew how things would turn out back in January 2020 when China reported a new flu like virus. Even when the cruise ship Diamond Princess was quarantined in Japan, it all seemed a long way away.
On 25th January, I decided that I would take a leap and leave the job I was in. The company had gone through a ‘merger’, I preferred to call it a take over as only staff in my legacy company were affected. All the staff I worked with left one by one in the previous 6 months and hundreds were made redundant. Confidence was at an all-time low and I felt disillusioned by the way my old company was swept aside. In January I was the last remaining foot soldier of the old guard and the new company now wanted to change my role. It was time to move on. January 20th 2020 was to be a momentous day, I would hand in my notice! It was something I had never done before but savings were good and I was confident that I could take my time and look around for a role closer to home.
My mum always says there’s always something else around the corner. I think the world was approaching a blind bend in March.
21st February was my last day. What a fabulous send-off colleagues gave me; I had wonderful messages from managers all around the country, and my new colleagues in the office really surprised me with flowers, chocolates, drinks and gifts. I left with a tinge of sadness but full of confidence for the future. I had heard at the time that some incidents of a virus were a bit of a problem in Italy and a couple of Chinese students in York may also have come down with it. But I was more concerned with putting my feet up for a couple of weeks and enjoying my chocolates.
My mum always says there’s always something else around the corner. I think the world was approaching a blind bend in March. Within a week or two of leaving work it was clear something big was happening. When Boris told us on 16th March to stay at home, it wasn’t what I had in mind when I resigned. I wasn’t too concerned for myself, I was used to being isolated and to some extent encouraged it. But the reports on telly became increasingly distressing.
I love my foreign holidays, just budget ones in the Med for a week with a friend. I can picture it now; sitting on the balcony watching the sunrise over the white Mediterranean architecture illuminating a brilliant blue sky. Who wouldn’t enjoy pottering about the shops and cafes, absorbing a few rays on the beach and an evening of culinary delights with a small tipple to round off the day? The atmosphere, sights and aromas are so different to what we experience in the UK. But I began to assume there would be no holiday this year.
The news continued to look bleak as the economy was being ravaged, and day after day there were reports of people losing their jobs.
Now I was beginning to think of others and not just myself. Reports were coming in of the holiday industry collapsing, almost unthinkable that airline pilots and crew were losing their jobs, cruise ships were being stacked up in ports and I felt so sad for the Mediterranean communities who relied so much on us sun-loving Brits for their livelihoods. People were dying in their thousands in Italy. I love Italy! But everything was changing so fast, soon what we were witnessing on tv abroad was to hit communities where we lived. Care homes were hitting the news as we began to realise that the elderly were at high risk. The news continued to look bleak as the economy was being ravaged, and day after day there were reports of people losing their jobs.
We all applauded the NHS and supported the essential workers, but who was looking after those on their own and unable to go out. My thoughts turned to my 85 year old Mum. She is very healthy and mobile but if she had to isolate herself how could she do her shopping, how would she cope without a social life, what about her church? Despite losing her husband of 40 years in January she remained strong and resilient, but it made me think about those people who are not able to manage quite so well.
There was now a little of the blitz spirit where neighbours were helping neighbours and communities were coming together.
Here was I in my own little semi-retired bubble feeling inadequate amidst all the sadness and loss I was seeing on tv. The news seemed inevitably dark day after day and it didn’t seem right that I wasn’t contributing in some way to help others. I’ve lived in the New Wortley area for 40 years but I didn’t know anyone, not even my neighbours. I’ve always been a bit of a coward. Mixing with others put expectations on me that I preferred to not confront. But there was now a little of the blitz spirit where neighbours were helping neighbours and communities were coming together. Ironically, it seemed that isolation was bringing people closer together. I had to make an effort… but how?
The tech companies were revelling in the boom to their businesses due to lockdowns, shares in Zoom and Amazon amongst others have rocketed. I’m not a big shopper and don’t really browse the web but I do read the news and play the odd free games on Facebook. Unwittingly, I contribute to the coffers of Google every time I search. Nevertheless, I googled volunteering near me (I wonder if googling should still be capitalised now it seems to have been adopted as a verb). Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL) was listed amongst the responses. I’d never heard of them but what the heck, I filled the form in. While I’m at it why not sign up for the NHS responder thingy I saw on the news as well. Not sure what to expect so I crawled back into my little comfy isolation bubble.
After a few back and forth emails to confirm my details I received a phone call from someone called Victoria asking me if I could possibly deliver a food parcel. I would get to know the angelic tones of Victoria much more over the coming months. I would also become a regular visitor to the Armley Hub to pick up the food parcels for delivery. At this stage I presumed it was the council sending me my daily errands and Victoria worked somewhere in the Hub. It didn’t concern me who was organizing the parcels I was just happy to be getting out and meeting people again.
Lines of shoppers would snake around supermarket carparks with an over-zealous desire for toilet rolls!
Delivering food parcels soon expanded into shopping for people self-isolating. Coronavirus was still a relative new thing to the UK but by now things were getting pretty unusual. Lines of shoppers would snake around supermarket carparks with an over-zealous desire for toilet rolls! It would seem the virus was more than just a respiratory illness; social anxiety was increasing in many more ways than just a sudden urge for a cleaner backside. Social distancing became the buzzword and mask wearing became the new fashion statement.
In my new role as casual shopper and food parcel provider, I met quite a lot of people on the doorstep who I would never have normally met. All were grateful for the help but also many were just happy for the opportunity to say hello. I never thought of myself as much of a conversationalist but it was nice to chat for a short while. Topics never ventured much beyond the usual things us brits like to moan about; the weather or grumble about the government. I really think some people appreciated the chat and when I left, I felt I had done something worthwhile. I was achieving my original goal of wanting to make an effort to help out but I was also learning. The community I had so much avoided in the past were really quite a decent bunch of people. There is a lot of hardship and people living in difficult circumstances but there are some really good hearts out there.
Spring turned to summer and things really started improve; restrictions started to ease, cafes and restaurants opened with the ‘new normal’ and toilet roll rations were lifted. I managed to see more of my Mum and the sun shone, things were starting to look relatively good again. But, behind the headlines many were still struggling since losing their jobs or were now on lower incomes. I thought my role would dwindle as the Armley Hub were to stop providing food parcels.
It was about this time that I found out the mysterious Victoria didn’t work for the council at all, but for New Wortley Community Association, and that requests for food parcels were being channelled through them. When I was asked if I would be ok to help with leafletting, I ventured inside the Community Centre for the first time. I was welcomed enthusiastically and finally managed to put a face to the dynamic Victoria. I was happy to help promote the centre when asked if I would be one of the faces for a BBC Look North interview. I couldn’t imagine that my face would be a positive promotional tool for the centre and it would seem the BBC agreed as I was cut from the transmission. Probably the best outcome for all concerned! However, I did pose for some professional photographs with a backdrop of a rusty railway bridge for the Centre’s website. The bridge looked good.
Shopping and some food parcels continued through summer and autumn but the shopping service was to be stopped. I was going to miss my regular customers but did keep in touch with a couple of them for a few weeks. I was expecting my role to diminish and it was time for me to start looking for an income, my savings wouldn’t last indefinitely. My hunt for employment had already failed in one dismal interview. Despite being reasonably well experienced and qualified for the role, my Homer Simpsonesque qualities under questioning were not what they were looking for. But Mum’s mantra of there’s always something round the corner came true when the community centre offered me a few hours of paid work to look after the food bank. It wouldn’t pay the bills but it would certainly help.
The new employment wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I left my pre-covid job, but it did tick a few boxes; my daily commute involves crossing the road, there is no stress involved and I was working with a great group of people for a nice community that I had shunned for so long. But more than anything, I had recovered something that I hadn’t thought about until it wasn’t there – a sense of purpose.
Meanwhile the virus was reviving its efforts to drive us all back into our homes. I did quite a few online courses to help with my new role and still continued to volunteer when not working. Christmas was going to be a sad lonely affair for a lot of people. It was a fun and inspiring day when several volunteers came in with their Santa hats and reindeer antlers, and to various Christmas melodies the Community Santa put together some lovely Hampers and presents for those in need.
I think there will be more hugs than usual in spring.
2021 will take some adjusting to. The ‘new norm’ is now still a distant dream as the country struggles with its darkest winter. But hope is within sight and before long people will come out of their homes, the cafes and bars will start to buzz again, people will be able to hug their loved ones and the planes will fly overhead carrying the sun-loving brits back to the Med. I will continue in my new role with the centre, but I’m also happy to still do my bit of volunteering and saying hello to a few more faces in the area. I’m looking forward to my first hug in over a year, I think there will be more hugs than usual in spring.
Hot Food Delivery
14th January 2021
Throughout the Pandemic NWCC have delivered hot meals to local residents in the LS12 area and since ‘Lockdown 2’ the centre has put on a hot meal delivery service Monday to Friday. Tanya our catering manager makes home-made meals every day. Lunches Monday Tuesday Thursday and Friday and an evening meal on Wednesdays. Occasionally Friday will be Fish and Chips from the local chippy. The centre provides hot meals delivered directly to resident’s doors.
The meals are made fresh every day, dishes and pies made from scratch with a baked dessert and all meals are nutritionally balanced.The hot meals consist of a portion of meat, whether it be lamb, beef, pork, turkey, chicken, mince stews, casseroles, pies, sausage, etc. With a serving of potato – mash, new, roasts. The desserts can be hot including rice and other milk puddings, sponge, crumble or pie all served with custard, or a cold dessert ranging from strawberries, cheesecake all served with cream to a slice of homemade cake. There are alternatives provided for people with specific dietary needs.’Tony Lawson
Home-delivered meals have a beneficial impact on older people who have difficulty leaving the house shopping or cooking due to limitations of mobility resulting from physical and/or mental health problems. Home-delivered meals are crucial in ensuring that our older persons have a nutritious meal, and are essential for healthy aging and for the prevention of chronic disease and future increased disability
‘I find making hot meals during the week has a great impact on our elderly people. It ensures they’re getting a hot meal but also, we get to check in with them to see how they’re doing. A lot of our service users really look forward to our visits. They really appreciate that bit of contact as they don’t get to see a lot of people during the week. We are also able to provide food parcels to people we know are struggling.Tanya Marshall