Welcome to the June edition of the Dons Local Action Group newsletter. This month we meet hub legend Samantha, find out more about our partner, the Earlsfield Food Bank, and hear all the excitement from the Family Fun Day. We also introduce a new recipe section and report amazing feedback for Keep Kids Connected and another DLAG award!
Focus on Earlsfield Food Bank
Banking on Community Support in Earlsfield
For the last ten years, Earlsfield Food Bank has been a lifeline for many in the area and DLAG is proud to be able to offer our support. Based in St Andrew's Church, it is run by a fantastic team of around 60 volunteers, with 20 people staffing each session on Thursday mornings.
What does the Food Bank do?
Charlotte White, the Food Bank's manager, has seen a lot of change over recent years. "We set out to provide discreet, compassionate support for people when they needed it most, this used to be on a pretty temporary basis just while they got back on their feet. In 2020 we'd see about 30 people a week, but now it's up to 100-120 people each Thursday".
She explains, "It's depressingly clear that levels of deprivation are rising. We're seeing more families need our support and generally we're getting a much broader range of guests and people you might not ordinarily expect come to us for help. These are people with jobs, mortgages, who themselves never expected to need help in this way".
"For example, we have a partnership with St George's Hospital and are supporting their staff, who come by after working a shift on the wards. They simply can't afford to meet the rising costs of living today between increased food prices and private landlords putting rents up".
Change for the better
The Food Bank aims to offer temporary support when it's needed most rather than be a permanent solution to a complex set of problems. It has also forged valuable connections with other organisations including Citizens Advice and Family Action, that can help guests improve their situations.
DLAG's invaluable help
DLAG's role is as important as ever. Weekly donations have been made to the Food Bank since 2020. At first the focus was on fresh fruit and vegetables but now the needs are broader. The Food Bank is able to make use of the wide range of generous donations DLAG receives from the community. The support of DLAG volunteers in helping the Earlsfield Food Bank continue their important work is very much appreciated.
The last word should of course go to Charlotte, "As part of the Independent Food Aid Network our goal is to try to help with root causes, not just address the symptoms. We encourage everyone to please write to your MPs to encourage them to help find a better solution. We simply cannot allow this to continue in our communities".
Volunteer in the Spotlight
Meet Samantha, our fantastic Hub volunteer
How did you get involved in DLAG?
I happened to walk up to Morrisons one day and started chatting to the volunteer on the stall. It was the end of October 2020, and I started volunteering at Sainsbury's in Wimbledon. I don't have any family in this country, so the pandemic was a bit of a lonely time, a difficult time, and I have slight learning difficulties as well. So I did shifts on some of the stalls, and I got to know Tim and Craig from the Hub through the pick-ups. I've been working in the Hub for over two years now and I'm head of supplies: ordering the stationery, making the signs and managing the board, where we have thank you letters from schools and people we've sent boxes to.
What role has DLAG played in your life?
Well I've come a long way, thanks to DLAG – I used to be very, very shy. I'm on the spectrum a bit, and it's nice to be accepted for who you are – there are no expectations of you to be a different person. I've had a lot of problems in my life, but I love my charity work here. When I first started I didn't speak to anybody – Craig says I can't keep quiet now.
I've met some wonderful people. I've made some lovely friends and joining DLAG has brought me a family and a huge sense of feeling needed, appreciated, valued and a tremendous sense of purpose. It's a powerful thing! I love coming here, I'm here five times a week, and I volunteer at a charity shop twice a week too.
Any stand-out memories associated with DLAG?
I had a special trip to London Zoo to celebrate my two-year anniversary volunteering, which was fantastic. I got to see the penguins, I'm a big fan of penguins. Meeting Haydon the Womble too. He's a big fan of mine apparently. I've been on a stadium tour and seen all the trophies.
What's special about DLAG?
When I was doing shifts on the stalls, it blew me away how much people would give, the generosity –and even now with the cost of living crisis. It's amazing how it's grown. We've had our third anniversary now, three years is a big milestone for us.
Also it's the community spirit. When you're on the stalls, there is a connection with the public donating, the regular shoppers who come and say hello, and also with the staff and security guards from the supermarket – they always make sure you're okay and see if you need any help.
The sunny social highlight of a May Bank Holiday weekend was the return of the DLAG Family Fun Day. Our incredible hosts, Old Rutlishians Sports and Social Club, ensured local people and volunteers had a blast whilst supporting crucial community initiatives.
There was something for everyone, with attractions including an inflatable obstacle course, circus skills workshops and a 'Disco Bus'. It was difficult to miss the imposing bungee platform, with its lineup of sponsored intrepid fundraisers ready to take a 'leap of faith'. One brave adrenaline-fueled jumper and DLAG volunteer, Matthew Harrison-Harvey, was particularly keen to thank everyone for their encouragement on the day, which he found especially helpful while standing at the top of the crane with the London horizon looming!
Many other DLAG volunteers combined to make the day such a memorable event. Meeting 'some lovely, appreciative folk' at the front desk, DLAG's Monica Wendling welcomed a long queue of costumed and football-kitted youngsters, dressed up in 'excited anticipation'. Monica loves what she does for our community, but the Family Fun Day really highlighted for her how important it is to 'give local families a day to relax with one another' and 'briefly forget about daily stresses, which for many are so inescapable'.
DLAG's Nimi and her eighteen-year-old daughter Elise, also spread family fun at the face painting stall. Elise is part of a growing group of younger DLAG volunteers currently working towards The Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award, which encourages participants to develop their talents with a community-focus. By her own admission, Elise initially signed up with her CV and future prospects in mind, but finished the Fun Day contemplating a lot more future volunteering, having 'fallen in love with the kind of atmosphere that DLAG creates' and inspired by 'how keen everyone is to get stuck in and help the people who need them'.
From the generous raffle prize donors, to those who kindly bought tickets to the event, as well as the incredible bungee jumpers and other fundraisers, everyone at DLAG, as always, is so grateful for our phenomenal family of volunteers and friends.
Look out for more fundraising announcements coming soon!
Save the date - Sunday 20 August, Volunteers' Summer Picnic: DLAG will be hosting a summer picnic (weather dependent) at a location in Wimbledon. Volunteers, friends, family and pets are all welcome. Please bring something to sit on, food, drinks and games. More details will follow nearer the time.
Businesses and DLAG working together: If you own or work for a business, you can help DLAG support our community. There are many ways to get involved, including corporate volunteer days; food, furniture and laptop donations; fundraising and awareness; offers for volunteers. If you think your business can help, please contact Xavier Wiggins at firstname.lastname@example.org.School supporting DLAG: Do you work at or have a connection with a local school? Please think about how you can assist DLAG in supporting the community. This could be in the form of Foodbank Fridays, encouraging pupils aged 14-17 to volunteer (subject to guidance and DLAG regulations) as well as teachers, friends and family, tours of the Hub, talks on poverty and DLAG's work, or fundraising. Schools can also refer struggling families to DLAG and we will assist with food, furniture and digital poverty. If you think your school can support DLAG, please contact Xavier Wiggins at email@example.com.A Fans Club play offer for volunteers: The cast and crew of A Fans Club would like to say thank you for all your hard work with DLAG. We are offering tickets to all DLAG volunteers at half price, for just £10 a ticket. A Fans Club is a play that tells the story of the formation of AFC Wimbledon, which will be performed at AFC Wimbledon's stadium from 23-25 June 2023. It's a story of loss and new beginnings. More information can be found on the play website. Up to four tickets can be purchased at the discounted price online by using the secret password 'DLAG'.Welcome Praz: DLAG's new Operations Administrator, Praz Kumar started in May. Praz will be supporting Craig and Tim in the Hub. We will feature a full interview with Praz in a future newsletter.
DLAG Making a Difference - Keep Kids Connected
Keep Kids Connected (KKC), the arm of DLAG providing laptops to local schools and charities, continues to act to end digital poverty. Jigsaw4u, a local charity, asked KKC to assist with a laptop for Eileen, a student who had been trying to do her schoolwork on her phone during exam season. Macklin Doherty, Business Development and Communications Manager at Jigsaw4u, stressed how important this donation was: "The laptop will be a huge help for Eileen in making things better for her academically and for her other interests. Eileen is a musician and with this laptop she will be better equipped for music production especially with the spec of laptop the KKC team donated to her".
KKC also provided a group of Ukrainian refugees with laptops donated by Dave (a DLAG volunteer) from Pictet Asset Management as well as delivering 25 Chromebooks to St Joseph's Catholic Primary School.
DLAG representatives were thrilled to win the award for Best Football Community Scheme - non Premier League at the Sports & Football Business Awards 2023. The judging panel commented: "This shows a lovely, long-lasting impact of the generosity of volunteers in the pandemic on a breadth of topics with a small budget and staffing. This shows just how powerful individuals with big hearts can be. A magnificent effort run almost entirely by volunteers. Giving practical support and showing overwhelming kindness to the most vulnerable in the community".
This award is in recognition of all our amazing DLAG volunteers and the difference you make to the communities around us. Thank you and well done to everyone!
Think about all that wonderful food that passes through our Hub each week. Many items will be the same things we all have in our own fridges and cupboards at home. How can we use every little bit? DLAG brings you our zero-waste recipes!
As summer is finally here (written on the hottest day of the year so far), how about a refreshing chilled soup? This one uses up those wrinkly carrots with a few additional 'store cupboard' bits and pieces.
Chilled Carrot & Ginger Soup Ingredients
10g butter (a small tablespoon)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated OR ¼-1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
6 large carrots, halved lengthways and cut into 1cm chunks
750ml chicken/veg stock
Melt the butter with the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, ginger and carrot, then cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock and another 750ml water.
Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the carrot softens.
Cool slightly, then puree in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Refrigerate until chilled.
To serve, stir in the juice of a lime, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with coriander sprigs. Serve with lime wedges if you’re feeling fancy.
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