Thank you to the Volunteers of Fleetwood Together
In the Spring of 2022, the long story of Fleetwood Together came to an end. This article, written by Canon Alf Hayes, Parish Priest of St Wulstan and Edmund, and by Lucy McNeill of West View Community Centre is to say a huge thank you to the many volunteers for their unstinting generosity and practical concern for our fellow citizens during these last two difficult years.
Before the Pandemic, St Wulstan and Edmund’s SVP Foodbank and St Peter’s Mustard Seed had individually been providing food for the needy of Fleetwood for nearly 11 years. West View Community Centre also ran a Members’ Food Club. Donations of food and monetary gifts from members of the public were gratefully accepted, and Supermarkets were very generous with surplus products. All went fairly smoothly and gently along.
Then, in March 2020 everything changed. Suddenly, because of Lockdown, many more people who would not normally need help, were stranded and unable to source food. Immediately these three organisations came together for a crisis meeting, and invited other organisations such as Fleetwood Town FC, the Masons, Rotary etc to attend. We agreed to pool our resources and gave ourselves the name “Fleetwood Together”. That was on a Friday and by Monday we were up and running.
For the first week we operated from St David’s church, but within days the requests for help had rocketed and we had to find somewhere bigger – a lot bigger! That’s when Wyre Borough stepped in with the offer of free use of the Marine Hall, where, for the first four months of lockdown, it became a hive of activity, staffed entirely by volunteers.
At the peak of the pandemic, our twenty or so drivers were taking out crates of food to over 600 homes, not just in Fleetwood but throughout Wyre, feeding 1500-1600 people per week. At the Marine Hall we had people who did a huge variety of tasks to make the operation run smoothly. Firstly, there were people who answered and dealt with all the incoming telephone calls for help, then collators who sorted out clients’ individual needs on the computer. After them came the sorters, shelf stackers, freezer stockers, people who split bulk supplies into family size rations, made up bags of fruit and vegetables, sorted out hygiene products, and pet food, etc. All these items were put together in crates by a ‘conveyor belt’ type system of volunteers and taken out to the drivers by the despatch team. It was an awesome operation by amateurs, which I think Amazon would have been proud of.
So what now? The two churches in the meantime have come together to form a new Trust called ‘Faith in the Community’, and will continue to be the ‘Foodbank’ for Fleetwood, operating out of The Pantry, situated in the old Fleetwood hospital in North Albert Street. West View Community centre is reverting to its pre-Covid way of serving the community, as are the other organisations. Although we know the worst is over, we are under no illusions that this is the end of hardship for many people, and all of these organisations, I am sure, will still be doing their best to help.
We really were Fleetwood Together at its very best.
Canon Alf Hayes: Parish Priest, St Wulstan and Edmund
Lucy McNeill: West View Community Centre