East Ham charity appeals for donations amid ‘unprecedented demand’ for support during coronavirus crisis

Volunteers at the Bonny Downs Community Association emergency relief hub. Picture: BDCA

Volunteers at the Bonny Downs Community Association emergency relief hub. Picture: BDCA - Credit: Archant

An East Ham charity has launched a Covid-19 crowdfunding appeal as it tries to keep up with “unprecedented demand” for emergency support.

Bonny Downs Community Association chief executive Chelle Coulton. Picture: BDCA

Bonny Downs Community Association chief executive Chelle Coulton. Picture: BDCA - Credit: Archant

Since beginning its emergency response, Bonny Downs Community Association (BDCA) has provided around 6,500 days’ worth of emergency food and essentials through its hub and foodbank to more than 1,300 people in the borough.

This includes families and older people who are vulnerable or self-isolating, and the charity estimates around a third of those receiving support are children.

BDCA says demand for its emergency relief packs has been greater than expected - and there is no sign of slowing.

The charity runs an emergency hub on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where volunteers assemble packs of fresh, frozen and cupboard foods as well as cleaning and household products and deliver them to residents.

Its foodbank, which operates on Wednesdays in partnership with Bonny Downs Baptist Church, is at its busiest since opening in 2013.

Now, BDCA is appealing for financial donations to help it continue supporting the community through the coronavirus crisis and the next phase of lockdown.

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BDCA chief executive Chelle Coulton said: “We thought that demand would be subsiding by now, but it has actually risen in the last two weeks as quarantine continues and more people find themselves in financial difficulty.

“It is clear that our community will need emergency support for longer than we ever expected or have funding for.

“We are typically spending at least £1,000 a week on shopping alone, in addition to the costs of our other services and overheads.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of the community and our volunteers over the past six weeks, as well as the fantastic spirit of collaboration we’ve experienced as we’ve partnered with Newham Council and other community organisations.”

The charity has also launched or adapted other services during the pandemic, such as a scheme to deliver shopping to people who can afford to pay but can’t go out.

It’s also running a befriending service for older people who are isolated, as well as other support groups and training to help the elderly get online and stay connected using technology.

Other services include a programme of virtual creative activities to keep children and young people entertained and learning while schools are closed.

The charity is providing debt, benefits and employment advice and advocacy service by phone while it cannot operate face-to-face.

Long-time foodbank volunteer Janet Colledge, who is also chief careers education consultant at Outstanding Careers and education director of National Careers Week, said: “The way we work has had to change.

“We still have people coming to us with vouchers issued by referring organisations, schools, surgeries, debt charities and social workers.

“However, we now also have many people coming to us for help directly so we ask them to provide proof of their name and address and the size of their family, often assessing them over the phone and arranging a delivery.

“In addition, because of the scale of the crisis, we have adapted to provide a longer supply of essentials than the three-day pack that foodbanks have traditionally offered.”

Visit crowdfunder.co.uk/BDCAcovid to donate and to find out more.