TV star Ross Kemp has been in a fair few war zones since his EastEnders’ acting days – and last month he found himself in sleepy Maidenhead!
Ross was filming the work of Rotary in the Berkshire town for a new slot which was broadcast on BBC1 in May called ‘Ross Kemp: Britain’s Volunteer Army’.
The Maidenhead project featured on the programme on Thursday, May 21st.
Maidenhead Bridge Rotary has formed a COVID-19 Volunteer Response Project, which has been working in the community by putting together food packages and helping the vulnerable in their community.
Rotarian Lisa Hunter was joined by Ross Kemp and a cameraman in her back garden putting together food parcels.
“Ross was very down to earth and keen to show some of the positive stories which have come out of this very negative and uncertain time,” she said.
“He was funny and genuinely interested in what we were doing, both in the current crisis, and in Rotary generally.”
For the past 10 weeks, the Maidenhead Bridge Rotarians have been helping to feed 23 families in the town who have been having a tough time financially during the pandemic.
After filming in Lisa’s garden, while maintaining social distancing at all times, and wearing protective equipment such as gloves to avoid contamination of the food parcels, Ross went on the road with club President, Costa Franceskides, to deliver a couple of parcels to the families.
The opportunity to appear on national television came about after Maidenhead Town Centre Manager, Steph James, had heard about the work the Rotarians were doing, and suggested to the BBC that they speak to the club.
Lisa said she was nervous about being featured on the programme, but believes the exposure will help to promote the work which Rotary is doing.
“It’s great that we can showcase Rotary doing what it does best – helping those in need,” she said. “And I am sure it will bring good publicity for Rotary as a whole.
“I am hopeful that the programme will show Rotarians taking action, that women and young people are members too.
“It’s hard to believe that we still have to break down the public perception of Rotary, but it’s true to say that most people believe the organisation is just for old men who sit having lunch, raising a bit of money, and not doing an awful lot of work in the community.
“This is, of course, not the case, and if this documentary can help to banish that mind-set, then that’s a good outcome to my mind.”
Lisa said she wouldn’t describe herself as an EastEnders’ fan, though she has watched the soap opera for the last 20 years when she gets a chance.
“It was definitely an unusual experience having one of the Mitchell brothers in my back garden and got the neighbours’ curtains twitching too,” she added.
The Volunteer Response Project in Maidenhead is going well. To date they are supporting 137 households running errands each week, which includes shopping, collecting prescriptions, posting mail, and even walking a dog on a daily basis!
The Rotary club has drawn together a team of 129 volunteers, made up of Rotarians and members of the local community, who have given over 500 hours of volunteering time.
In addition, they are providing 23 families with weekly food parcels.
Lisa explained: “This involves doing a weekly shop – round the supermarket with three trolley-loads and then a game of Tetris trying to get it all in my car!
“We then create the individual boxes with the help of my nine-year-old, before distributing the parcels with a team of five volunteers covering different areas of the town.
“To try and bring some happiness into the families’ homes, we have also given them Easter eggs, a family card game supported by the Kevin Cruise Foundation and, most recently a Rotary-branded flapjack recipe card, plus the ingredients to make them.
“Some of the photos we’ve had back are great to see.
“One little girl got her mum up at 7am to make the flapjacks as she was so excited. This is just one way we can make a difference and make this odd time a little nicer and memorable for the right reasons.”