The commuter belt around Richmond in Surrey might be considered immune to the harsh impact of COVID-19, with its multi-million pound homes nestling by the banks of the River Thames.
However, the virus and its impact has no boundaries, and Kew Rotary has been called upon to help five foodbanks in Surrey where demand has reached an all-time high.
In recent months, they have raised £13,000 through a crowd-funding scheme to support foodbanks in Barnes, Hampton, Isleworth, Richmond and Whitton.
“Some of our Kew Gardens Rotary members have been actively involved in our five local food banks with delivery- type activities,” explained Rotarian James Onions.
“And a few of us – Richard Mason, John Coles and myself – also started a crowd-funder.
“We started with no experience. The result is we have raised £13,000 for those same food banks for us to use as needed over the coming months.”
To raise the money, the Rotarians received publicity in the local MP’s newsletters along with publicity to various community groups. The reach was to many thousands of people.
“We reached the £13,000 with £2,800 of District Grant and over £10,000 raised from club funds and the crowdfunding involved more than 140 people – and including gift aid.
The result is we have raised £13,000 for those same food banks for us to use as needed over the coming months.”
“Not bad for a club that doesn’t raise that in a non-COVID year.”
James said their initial target was to raise £1,800 to support the five food banks run by the Vineyard in Richmond, and which is part of the Trussell Trust. This would support 20 families with three family packages during crisis.
“Gradually, in five steps, we increased our target to £7,000 target and exceeded it to £7,345,” added James. “This was achieved in 42 days from zero knowledge. We far exceeded our expectations.
“We matched £3,600 with club and District grant funds. We should now be able to support close on 140 families during that crisis period between no income and universal credit.”
Rotary’s involvement was featured in the local press with a feature in the Richmond Nub News.
In the feature, Vineyard Community Centre chief executive Mark Palframan explained how COVID-19 has forced them to close their café and charity drop, resulting in a £60,000 drop in income. At the same time, the demand for food parcels increased four-fold.
That gap has been filled by the generosity of people living in Richmond. He said: “It really helps people and it has strong support from the wider community, especially now.
“It’s been brilliant, absolutely brilliant – lots of donations. Lots of money and food, and general goodwill.”
One of the Rotarians, Richard Mason, speaking to the Richmond Nub News, said: “We saw the amazing work the Vineyard does was challenged by increasing demand and no income from their shop or café which had to close.
It’s been brilliant, absolutely brilliant – lots of donations. Lots of money and food, and general goodwill.”
“The Rotary club decided on a project to support impacted families during their period of crisis.
“Our usual sources of fund-raising are not available during lockdown – so we put our energies into a trial of crowdfunding.
“It has really worked well thanks to the generosity of our community – a huge thanks to everyone who contributed.”
James Onions said he was delighted with the success of the project in Richmond, and revealed how the Rotary club was now looking further afield for its next venture.
He said: “We are now going to try the same approach, against much scepticism, for an international project.
“We are looking to assist a food bank in a refugee camp in Greece. It is the largest in Europe and very overcrowded.
“We expect a smaller response but hope to exceed our target of £2500. This could be the future for our fund-raising.”