I don’t think I need to say that this year has been different. For thousands of people, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought them loss, grief, and sadness. For others, it’s been stressful and worrying. But out of the negative aspects of 2020, there has been some positives.
Many of us have been able to take a step back from our busy hamster-wheel daily lives to spend some time on other things. We’ve learnt to appreciate the love and support we receive from family and friends and how much human connections play an important role in our health and wellbeing.
The pandemic has also made us look a little harder outside the bubble of our own lives to take a closer look at the struggles and challenges other people face.
Out On An Errand
Back in Leeds a few weeks ago I had an errand to run in the Leeds city centre. It was a dark, late afternoon with a biting wind. I was wrapped up in my coat with a scarf and gloves.
I walked past the council building, in which my old school used to be and smiled. Can you imagine having a high school right in the centre of a city now? I was thinking about what mischief we would get up to, how we’d roam around town at lunch time and how we got in big trouble for throwing rubber bungs from the science lab on the 4th floor on to passing buses!
Then further along the road, I noticed a group of men and women gathered outside a church near Leeds infirmary, just as they had been thirty odd years ago. They weren’t worshippers, you could see that immediately. Many of them were clinging on to carrier bags and they looked uncomfortable. These people were heading to St Georges Crypt.
St George’s Crypt
St George’s Crypt began as a place where men who were out of work could pay a visit for a hot drink and sometimes a change of clothes. That was in 1930. After WWII, it also began to operate as a homeless shelter for men who needed a place to sleep.
In 1967 the Crypt became a registered charity. Over the years it developed and expanded, it now provides shelter and food for the homeless and support to young people and adults with alcohol addiction and mental health issues.
It has strong connections with Leeds City Council and several other organisations which provide much-needed help and support. A big success for the charity has been the setting up and running of the Assisi and Armley Cafes.
Both these establishments are open to the public, 7 days a week. The staff are members of the Nurture Catering Programme which gives people who are in recovery or have just left prison an opportunity to learn a new skill and improve their self-esteem.
Thinking about these homeless people getting a good warm meal reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a mate Steve Stothart, when I asked him how his recent early retirement was going? “Busy!” he grinned. “I’ve got involved as a volunteer driver with a charity, I thought I’ do a few hours and then get out on the golf course”. “But I really enjoyed what I’m doing so I’m putting in a lot more time.”
Fareshare Yorkshire was founded in 1998. The charity collects surplus food from food retailers which is then delivered to their warehouse’s in Leeds and Barnsley. Their volunteers then distribute what they have to charities, community groups and schools across Yorkshire.
These communities then take that food and use it to create delicious, healthy meals which are given to homeless shelters, women’s refugee’s, school breakfast clubs and individuals.
Their support helps over 32,000 people every week. That’s more than three-quarters of the capacity of Elland Road. Next time you go to a football stadium look around. That’s the number of people who aren’t able to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families each week.
Steve had mentioned to me how they need money to fund the vans and fuel. We have often done our bit for charities over the years, but local charities often get overlooked.
That’s why this year, me and my team at Tremark decided not to spend money sending out Christmas Cards but instead to give a donation to both St George’s Crypt and Fareshare. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s far more useful.
Happy Christmas to all our clients, friends and readers.
Let’s hope that in 2021 we can once again visit family and friends, take holidays, share hugs and cope with Brexit!