'They've been heroes': Leisure centre workers seconded to foodbank during lockdown

Wymondham Leisure Centre employee Karen Brindle was seconded to the Help Point independent foodbank during lockdown.

Wymondham Leisure Centre employee Karen Brindle was seconded to the Help Point independent foodbank during lockdown. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

The coordinator of a Norfolk community "lifeline" has hailed the work of a group of council employees seconded to work with them to help others during lockdown.

The Wymondham Community Outreach Project (WCOP) has run for almost two and a half years and works to alleviate the effects of poverty, social stigma and isolation as well as combatting food waste in the community.

Wymondham Community Outreach Project's independent foodbank service Help Point.

Wymondham Community Outreach Project's independent foodbank service Help Point operates out of the Catholic Parish Church of Our Lady and Saint Thomas of Canterbury in Norwich Road. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Its main project is the Help Point independent foodbank, which operates out of the Our Lady and Saint Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church in Norwich Road.

During the three national lockdowns since last March, it has been supported by staff from Wymondham Leisure Centre.

Wymondham Leisure Centre workers have been seconded to the Help Point independent foodbank during lockdown.

Wymondham Leisure Centre workers have been seconded to the Help Point independent foodbank during lockdown. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Karen Brindle, Sara Standley, Daisy Turner and Sue Brockhouse have all been seconded to help out at the foodbank, agreed by their line manager James Anderson and arranged by Matt Allen at South Norfolk District Council.


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Coordinator Arnie McConnell described them as "Covid community heroes".

Arnie McConnell is the coordinator of the Wymondham Community Outreach Project.

Arnie McConnell is the coordinator of the Wymondham Community Outreach Project. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

He said: "Unlike mainstream foodbanks we do not need a formal referral nor do we issue standard food parcels. This means that we can respond immediately to those needing support and parcels are based on the personal preference of those in need.

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"We recognise that we are feeding the spirit as well as the stomach. We also seek to eliminate food waste. Karen has been superb in reaching out to people and removing the stigma of seeking help."

Arnie McConnell is the coordinator of the Wymondham Community Outreach Project.

Arnie McConnell is the coordinator of the Wymondham Community Outreach Project. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Helping out at the church on Saturday, March 20, Mrs Brindle and Mrs Standley said they had enjoyed the social aspect of the work, and that it was important both for them and for the people they were helping.

"If I go out on deliveries I go missing for hours, because sometimes you're the only person they see," Mrs Brindle added.

Wymondham Leisure Centre employee Sara Standley was seconded to the Help Point independent foodbank during lockdown.

Wymondham Leisure Centre employee Sara Standley was seconded to the Help Point independent foodbank during lockdown. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

They will both miss the work when they return to their day job from April 12, when the leisure centre is set to reopen.

Once they have gone, the project will be in need of more volunteers to help keep their operation running smoothly.

Food parcels at the Help Point independent foodbank in Wymondham are tailored to each recipients individual needs.

Food parcels at the Help Point independent foodbank in Wymondham are tailored to each recipients individual needs. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

As well as the foodbank, Mr McConnell said they hoped to bring back their weekly community kitchen when restrictions allow.

WCOP is supported by both South Norfolk District Council and Wymondham Town Council, as well as the Saffron Housing Trust.

Wymondham Community Outreach Project volunteers at the independent foodbank service Help Point.

Wymondham Community Outreach Project volunteers at the independent foodbank service Help Point. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Food parcels at the Help Point independent foodbank in Wymondham are tailored to each recipients individual needs.

Food parcels at the Help Point independent foodbank in Wymondham are tailored to each recipients individual needs. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Wymondham Community Outreach Project's delivery van is loaded up ahead of a trip to drop off valuable supplies.

Wymondham Community Outreach Project's delivery van is loaded up ahead of a trip to drop off valuable supplies to those who need them. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Wymondham Community Outreach Project's delivery van is loaded up ahead of a trip to drop off valuable supplies.

Wymondham Community Outreach Project's delivery van is loaded up ahead of a trip to drop off valuable supplies to those who need them. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa


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