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This series looks at how local causes help provide support for communities, thanks to funding received from Co-op and Co-op members.
I’m the operational manager at Gilfach Goch Community Association, a registered charity based in Gilfach Goch, south Wales. We’ve been a presence within the community for 25 years and our extensive impact spans education, the relief of poverty, youth clubs, employment programmes and disability groups.
Providing essential supplies
When the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns hit – changing the way we live our lives indefinitely – we adapted our services overnight to meet the needs of our community. We started our current project near the end of March, after we managed to secure funding to provide the village with supplies such as meals, fruit- and veg-filled hampers, and therapeutic packs – things like bird boxes, grow-your-own hanging basket packs, and arts and crafts.
We also delivered supplies for kids in the area – colouring projects or sports and activities to keep them entertained – as well as pamper packs for men and women, containing shower gel, deodorant and so on.
At the very peak of lockdown, people weren’t able to get out to buy these sorts of things; lots were isolating and stuck indoors. The grow-your-own boxes were aimed at supporting people’s mental health and the hampers were about giving recipients support and the reassurance that they’re not alone.
Spreading the word
The past few months have seen our uptake increase due to a surge in awareness: we started leaflet dropping in the area, and thanks to social media and word of mouth, people are getting more of an idea of what we’re doing and how we’re able to support them. On Monday mornings, they call up and book in free meals for a few days and request a pack to be delivered.
We want as many people to benefit as possible. It’s great that we have a big facility to use – at one point our sports hall was about two-thirds full of stock! We provided free meals for pupils at the local comprehensive. As school started going back, we’d be packing around 280 meals a day, five days a week.
The human approach
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we were in the routine of picking up Co-op’s end-of-day stock and delivering to those who were struggling. Co-op has a very human approach; it’s not about the number of people you can help, it’s about what they get out of what you’re offering, how you engage with adults and children, and how their confidence grows. It’s about people, their emotions, their achievements, the reduction in social isolation – and the smiles on people’s faces, of course!
Co-op member donations have been invaluable to our community. The money we’ve received over the years has been amazing. People might not realise the difference it makes, but when it’s 1p out of every £1 and you’ve got 10,000 people doing that, it’s a massive amount of money.
It is important that everyone understands the contribution they can make to their community. I hope the spirit of community that’s come about during the pandemic gives people the incentive to sign up for a card and pick an organisation to support.
Our cause received funds from the Co-op Local Community Fund and we also benefitted from a £500 donation from the Co-op Members Coronavirus Fund, where Co-op Members donated their wallet.
If members want to donate their wallet, they can sign in and choose to give it to the new Co-op Community Partnerships Fund.
Goch Community Association’s Operational Manager