The words of Rishi Sunak on 23 March 2020 when lockdown was announced resonated with Kelly Hall and her daughter Grace, who decided they must do something to support the local community, in particular the elderly, vulnerable, those on furlough or who had lost their jobs and were struggling to put food on the table.
Kelly posted her vision on the Facebook Covid-19 Chesterfield Support network page and within hours had been offered premises from Natalie Bahlaj, a local business owner who could no longer continue to trade due to lockdown. ‘Without Natalie, the Food Hut would never have got off the ground,’ says Kelly. Then along came Chell Whiteley and they were now ready to set up the Chesterfield Community Food Hut.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”
- Helen Keller
The determination of a small team of volunteers, putting in the hours working to source donations, and pack and deliver food parcels throughout Chesterfield has allowed them to hand out an estimated 11,000 food parcels to date. Kelly credits the success to the invaluable decision to team up with Door 2 Door Taxis, who unbeknownst to her, were already delivering food parcels through their taxi service, and Gussie’s Kitchen, who offer food parcels from St Augustine’s church and had been preparing cooked meals for individuals.
Food parcels will be given to anyone who needs one, without judgement or discrimination, be it as a stop gap whilst waiting for benefits or to the elderly or vulnerable who are isolating. As Kelly says, "You will be greeted with a huge smile and enough food to keep you lovely people going. We are in this together and whilst ever we can, we will always support anyone that should ever need us."
They very quickly built up the trust of DCC, Morrison's, Voluntary Action, Social Services and Community Mental Health teams who passed on referrals for their food parcels.
The Food Hut is here to stay, they were here throughout the first lockdown and were given their permanent premises in Dunston by Chesterfield Borough Council in July. This promises to be a centre where people of all ages can socialise, garden and meet for organised activities, once the pandemic allows for mixing.
When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back at this moment and remember the small acts of kindness done by us and to us…
...how we first thought of others and acted with decency.”
This incredible team of volunteers hasn’t taken a break since March, working tirelessly to feed those in need and also helping those who come into the centre looking for clothes, toiletries and additional support, referring people to other services where necessary. They’ve also put together free lunch boxes to help children during the school holidays. Demand has increased again through the second lockdown. "We recognise the need for this service to continue alongside the other voluntary organisations in and around Chesterfield."
Kelly would like to pass on thanks to everyone involved in the project, and in particular to the Chesterfield Labour Party and Cllr Janice Marriott.
They are always desperate for donations and, as the Christmas season approaches, have put together the reverse advent calendar overleaf which suggests items you may want to collect in the run up to Christmas and to donate to the Food Hut in time for the big day. Why not organise a collection on your street?
Donations to Monkwood Road Community Rooms, Dunston, Chesterfield, S41 8DG.
Open: Monday, Wednesday & Friday 11am to 4pm
Any monetary donations can be sent via PayPal to: email@example.com
T: 07784 932115
Words: Louise Hepplewhite