12 days of Stripey’s lockdown heroes

12 days lockdown blog (17)

“In the midst of darkness, light persists.” – Mahatma Gandhi

In the year that many may wish to forget, it’s important we remember the many acts of kindness, unwavering support and community spirit we have all been witness to.

We have some very special individuals and organisations which make up Team Stork and during the darker times of 2020, they’ve never shone more brightly. Our Stripey Stork supernova stars, heroes and sheroes, deserve a little spotlight, so here they are featured in our ’12 days of Stripey’s lockdown heroes’ series. They are all part of our 2020 story, as are the many others who have supported us during the most difficult of years. Thank you to the best team ever – Team Stork!

Local legend Rich

‘2020 – Year of the Rich’. Richard Feist became more involved with Stripey Stork when he applied to run the London Marathon for us. He quickly smashed his fundraising target at a horse racing night he organised back in March. Sadly, the usual London marathon event wasn’t meant to be this year but that didn’t deter Rich and the many others who went virtual in #The40thRace which was rescheduled for October. Rich, along with his many local followers who turned up to support him, took to running the distance around (and around) Merstham Cricket Club ground on the wettest day ever. He most definitely earned his stripes that day and in total raised an amazing £5,846 (which includes gift aid)!

After visiting our warehouse earlier in the year, he wanted to do even more. So, when we went into lockdown #1, he started organising regular donation drive-thru events at Merstham Cricket Club (of which he’s the Chairman) for Stripey Stork and two local foodbanks. The events are still happening to this day, see link. During lockdown we upgraded our shelving units with taller racking, meaning we’d have more space to store more stock such as the many nappies Rich was delivering. It’s great to know that fundraisers such as his marathon event (and the donation from Gerrards’ face masks below) have been able to cover costs like this which has meant we’ve been able to increase our capacity and help even more families in need.

His reputation as a local legend is well deserved and proven by his virtual marathon entourage – always wanting to do more for local causes and is such an asset to Team Stork.

Mini storks

We always say that kindness starts at a young age and we are so lucky to have such compassion amongst our mini storks. We are deeply touched every time a parent contacts us about their child who’s been busy planning how they can help. Young leaders in the making with the biggest of hearts, which will get them far in life. We have three in particular to mention here who’ve really stood out for us during the pandemic.

Ava-May (age 8), whose family’s business is long term supporters Celtic Contractors, organised a full schedule of fundraising activities during lockdown #1. From a cake sale extraordinaire and TikTok challenge, to a bikeathon and quiz. She absolutely knocked it out the park, raising a total of £1,959 which she chose to split between us and NHS Charities Together. You can read more here.

Charlie (age 7), whose Mum is a volunteer, also got busy baking for us around the same time. She had originally planned a cake sake at school but wasn’t going to let a global crisis stop her, so she set up shop at home. She designed her own bunting and posters, and family and friends who were going to bake for the school cake sale donated the cost of the ingredients to our COVID-19 appeal instead. Also Charlie and Ava-May each starred in one of our promotional campaign videos. They may have found their calling, if they don’t become world leaders first of course!

Then we have little Oscar, whose Mum Laura was a volunteer but is now part of our core team, totally warming our hearts. At only age 5 he organised a street cash collection, as well as saving half of his weekly pocket money using one of our #Save4Stripey money boxes, towards our COVID-19 appeal. In his own words: “I want to help the children who have nothing”. The pennies added up and he raised a brilliant £73! He didn’t stop there though and started saving his pocket money once again for #Stripes4Stripey. An absolute heart of gold, we couldn’t be prouder!

Saving Christmas

In order for us to process the many more Santa Stork Christmas gift requests we received this year as a consequence of COVID-19, we needed ‘a bigger boat’ and the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill saved the day. As we were entering lockdown #2 it became apparent that we were going to need more space for gifts and so our volunteers could work in a COVID-safe way. A call was made to Cllr. Mark Brunt (Council Leader) from Reigate & Banstead Borough Council and within days Santa Stork had moved to its new base. We were given the main auditorium and it was the perfect solution; it gave us ample space, easy access for deliveries/collections and proximity to the shops for supplies/gift top-ups. They really did save the day and Christmas.

Business community heroes

As we all know too well, the high street and many local businesses have been hit hard this year. The team and community have tried to support them wherever possible, but what has been truly amazing is that even in the face of adversity, some businesses have still found ways to support the stork. Like Nancy from Gerrards, an independent fashion retailer on Reigate High Street, who sold face masks remotely during lockdown #1 which raised an incredible £1,969 in profits for Stripey Stork, in just 3 weeks!

There’s also Reigate Manor Hotel, who’ve continued to support us through their own tough times. Unfortunately, the charity quiz we had planned with them back in April had to be cancelled, but they’ve still managed to support us whenever they’ve been open by holding themed family afternoon teas with a portion of sales being donated to Stripey Stork.

We are also extremely grateful to be one of Natural Baby Shower’s charity partners. From the moment they visited our warehouse, they’ve looked for creative ways to support our cause and campaigns. For example, in May they showed their support for three charities they had identified as facing challenging times whilst continuing to support the most vulnerable. We were so grateful for the £2,000 we received from 10% of sales from their rainbow collection campaign which contributed to us being able to remain open during an extremely busy time.

We are proud to be part of this business community which has really stepped up, even when their own businesses have been negatively affected.

100% Merstham legend

2020 has definitely been the ‘Year of the Masks’. We had Janet and her trusty team of sewers (Scrubs for Heroes) who started a mass production of making face masks from donated duvet covers during lockdown #1 for the NHS and local charities. There’s been an awful lot of masks made by them over the past six months and we were extremely grateful for the £2,000 donation which we received from the proceeds, read more here. It’s because of this donation that we were able to fund one of our special COVID-19 projects – where close to 500 summer activity bags were distributed locally in time for the summer holidays to help alleviate holiday poverty which was identified as being particularly high this year.

Another local legend doing great things for her community.

Lockdown volunteers

We’ve been fortunate that throughout the pandemic we’ve been able to keep our operations going and continue to get those much-needed referral packs out the door. That’s been largely down to our dedicated and flexible volunteers.

As Fred Rogers said: “Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping”.

And we didn’t have to look far, with such a passionate volunteer base who wanted to do whatever they could to help. Numbers in the warehouse have had to remain restricted to keep everyone safe, but there’s been no shortage of volunteers who’ve offered to work from home, sorting and packing whenever needed.

And then there’s ‘our Graham’, who was committed to volunteering at the warehouse on any of the days we needed him during lockdown #1 (with or without new puppy Molly). He was factored into our skeleton staff schedule and never let us down, which ensured that every single request for help was answered and that the many bulk supplies were distributed to our referral partners to give out as crisis packs, so they didn’t have to keep travelling to our warehouse.

Clap for our referrals

As the nation gathered every Thursday evening to #Clap4Carers, we extended this to give some thought to, and appreciation for, our referral partners who have also been working on the frontline throughout the pandemic, supporting the already vulnerable families within our community. They have worked harder than ever, often under stringent lockdown restrictions, to reach their supported families. The detrimental effects of isolation, job loss and more financial pressure has really taken its toll on the families on their caseloads, see our ‘Life under lockdown‘ series for case study examples.

Our referral partners have frequently put themselves in danger and worked extra hours to ensure help has got to where it’s needed to be. So, it was lovely when we were able to share some pamper treats with during lockdown #1 them which had kindly been donated by Jurlique. It was a show of appreciation for the personal sacrifice they were making. In the weeks that followed, we were able to distribute them as and when referrals collected from the warehouse, as well as donate some to local NHS staff through SASH Charity.

Stripey’s sewers & knitters

We have some wonderfully talented and kind-hearted knitters/sewers on Team Stork and, finding themselves with a little more time on their hands during lockdown, were keen to put their skills to good use. Joan knitted 16 colourful patchwork blankets and Rich the legend’s Mum also got knitting, after hearing all about Stripey Stork from her son.

Volunteer Emma saw potential amongst the items of clothing we’d had to put in the recycling basket and used her skills to give them a second life by sewing this beautiful patchwork blanket together. The result was many families’ memories blended together which made a very special donation indeed.

Long term supporter and master knitter Peta also kept her knitting needles busier than usual during lockdown. We had three large parcels of her adorable woolly delights arrive at HQ. She remained as compliant as ever with health and safety regulations by not using buttons (choking hazard) and including labels with the type of wool used (in case of allergies).

Superheroes come in many different forms and these come armed with knitting/sewing needles as their weapons.

COVID-19 funding

With a big proportion of our usual income stream lost from the many fundraisers and events which have been cancelled this year, the fact that new funding opportunities have become available to support charities like ours has been a lifeline. Funds which have been redirected and grant applications launched to support organisations working on the ground to help those severely impacted by COVID-19.

We’ve been recipients of funding to support the bulk supplies and crisis packs which we’ve been giving out since the pandemic began, which to date has helped 1,829 families. This includes funding from The Charles Lewis Foundation, Tesco Bags of Help, Community Foundation for Surrey supported by National Emergencies Trust (see link), and Neighbourly.

We’re also extremely grateful for the financial support from Toyota, Greggs Foundation and Pfizer, for funding which was set-up in response to COVID-19 and which we’ve been able to use towards core costs, helping to ensure we’ve remained operational during the crisis and beyond

Our fantastic donors

Pre-loved donations are what keeps Stripey Stork’s wheels in motion. It’s the root of what wo do – finding deserving homes for the items your children have outgrown. There’s been times over the past few months that we’ve had to put a halt on accepting donations due to travel restrictions and/or lack of storage space. Thank you to all those who have patiently held onto their items until we have been able to accept them again.

As a result of the pandemic, we have revised the way we accept donations; our Friday ‘donation drive-thru’ has been put in place and is proving to be a successful, efficient and safe system. Thank you to everyone who has adapted to this new way of working.

We’ve also been blown away by people’s kindness in keeping our supplies topped-up through our Amazon wish list, with some really generous orders being delivered over the past few months.

Speaking of generosity, long-time supporters Emily and Jo used their time in lockdown to hunt down bargains which got our Christmas campaign off to a great start.

Thank you to all our donors for keeping us going!

Super John

Anyone who is part of the Stripey Stork team will at some point have involved their other halves and children in getting the job done! We aren’t exaggerating when we say we’re one big happy family.

It was Office Manager Nancy’s husband, John, whose turn it was to wear a cape during lockdown #1; from filling his car with trips to Ikea, to late night nappy shopping in Sainsburys, John was our man! In fact, the whole team pulled together, doing what they could, when they could, whilst juggling the challenges of homeschooling at the same time. Our superpowers were fully executed during lockdown and I think a few new ones were discovered along the way.

Sharing is caring

The way community organisations have pulled together – sharing their connections and resources – is truly admirable and a great example of how so much more can be achieved, even quicker, when working in this mindset. Items have been shared between baby banks, and we’ve been recipients of nappies, toiletries and even pre-loved donations passed on by local foodbanks and hygiene banks.

In October we were invited by Sal’s Shoes to take our pick of a huge haul of top quality, brand new children’s clothing which had been donated to them. We filled our cars with 934 chosen items which made lovely additions to our pre-loved clothing packs.

Sal’s Shoes have also been generous with their connections, by recently putting us in contact with Staples, which resulted in a donation of 1,300 rolls of tape for our Santa Stork campaign.

All of these organisations are working to the same goal – to alleviate the effects of poverty – and with the realisation that by playing to each’s strengths so much more can be accomplished.

Lockdown has certainly tested us all and we hope more than anything for a less challenging year ahead, but we can all gain strength and optimism from these acts of kindness and generosity within our community, and know that whatever lies ahead, we’ve ALL got this!

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