'They've been heroes': Leisure centre workers seconded to foodbank during lockdown
- Credit: Victoria Pertusa
The coordinator of a Norfolk community "lifeline" has hailed the work of a group of council employees seconded to work with them to help others during lockdown.
The Wymondham Community Outreach Project (WCOP) has run for almost two and a half years and works to alleviate the effects of poverty, social stigma and isolation as well as combatting food waste in the community.
Its main project is the Help Point independent foodbank, which operates out of the Our Lady and Saint Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church in Norwich Road.
During the three national lockdowns since last March, it has been supported by staff from Wymondham Leisure Centre.
Karen Brindle, Sara Standley, Daisy Turner and Sue Brockhouse have all been seconded to help out at the foodbank, agreed by their line manager James Anderson and arranged by Matt Allen at South Norfolk District Council.
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Coordinator Arnie McConnell described them as "Covid community heroes".
He said: "Unlike mainstream foodbanks we do not need a formal referral nor do we issue standard food parcels. This means that we can respond immediately to those needing support and parcels are based on the personal preference of those in need.
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"We recognise that we are feeding the spirit as well as the stomach. We also seek to eliminate food waste. Karen has been superb in reaching out to people and removing the stigma of seeking help."
Helping out at the church on Saturday, March 20, Mrs Brindle and Mrs Standley said they had enjoyed the social aspect of the work, and that it was important both for them and for the people they were helping.
"If I go out on deliveries I go missing for hours, because sometimes you're the only person they see," Mrs Brindle added.
They will both miss the work when they return to their day job from April 12, when the leisure centre is set to reopen.
Once they have gone, the project will be in need of more volunteers to help keep their operation running smoothly.
As well as the foodbank, Mr McConnell said they hoped to bring back their weekly community kitchen when restrictions allow.
WCOP is supported by both South Norfolk District Council and Wymondham Town Council, as well as the Saffron Housing Trust.