The Suffolk mum offering 'puzzles-on-wheels' to keep community busy

Katie McSweeney and her puzzle library in Acton

Katie McSweeney and her puzzle library in Acton - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

A Suffolk mum has been helping to feed both the minds and bodies of those living in her village. 

Katie McSweeney, 42 from Acton near Sudbury, has been providing food and puzzles to villagers for the past few months. 

Mrs McSweeney was struck down by a non-coronavirus related illness during the first lockdown which left her struggling to even hold her phone. 

It was this experience that led to her to want to give back to her community. 

"I was quite unwell," she said. 

"I had really damaged nerves in my hands.

"You couldn't see any doctors or physios, so I really wasn't in a good way.

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"What happened in the village was that people were putting things outside their houses. When I would go out for a wellness walk you could see the things that people had put out.

"There was a real sense of community."

There was also a book cupboard which Mrs McSweeney would aim to walk to. 

Sadly the cupboard had to end after concerns it was not completely Covid-safe.  

"I really missed that," she said. 

"So I thought I'm going to do something else. So I set up the puzzle library because I thought I could make it safe."

The puzzle library now sits on shelves outside her home. 

Katie McSweeney has been providing puzzles to the people of Acton for the last few months

Katie McSweeney has been providing puzzles to the people of Acton for the last few months - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Anyone can donate or take a puzzle away from the library with a range of different difficulties for families to try. 

All incoming puzzles are quarantined to ensure they are safe for people to take away. 

"I started it in November and it was getting on for winter time," she said. 

"So it's getting dark and cold. People can't leave things outside their houses anymore, we need something else. 

"Puzzles are meant to be very good for mindfulness."

So far Mrs McSweeney has given out over 150 puzzles to people in the village. 

"People have been really generous and donated puzzles and donated money so I can get more puzzles," said Mrs McSweeney.

"If people are frail or self-isolating my kids and I offer a  puzzles-on-wheels service so we will go and take them to people's doorsteps."

As well as helping to keep people in the village entertained, Mrs McSweeney has also started collecting food that would otherwise have been thrown away. 

Katie McSweeney gives food to father and daughter Duncan and Kiera Cox

Katie McSweeney gives food to father and daughter Duncan and Kiera Cox - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Mrs McSweeney came across the Olio app which allows people to share food that would otherwise go to waste.

So far she believes she has helped give out over 800 items to people in the village, that could have otherwise gone to waste. 

She said the app felt like an extension of work she had always done to help the local foodbank, except this time it was with items that foodbanks couldn't always take because of their short shelf lives. 

"I thought this year we could do so much more," said Mrs McSweeney. 

"The Olio app just helped me to get it out to people."

Mrs McSweeney is also helping parents at a local school who have been struggling.

For Mrs McSweeney all the additional work she does for the village is made worth it by the people she helps. 

"It's incredibly rewarding, just seeing people be grateful for a bit of kindness," she said. 

"I think a bit of kindness goes a long way."

As well as being ill herself, Mrs McSweeney's mother has also had a difficult year, making her value the work that others have done even more. 

"I really appreciate what people have done to help," she said. 

"I saw that kindness out there and I wanted to give back."

Mrs McSweeney says she will continue to help the village and is already branching out to help walk local dogs and hopes to set up a village larder to share out produce. 

The success of Mrs McSweeney's local initiatives feel a world away from her illness and her start to 2020. 

"If you had said to me back in the summer I would be doing all of these things I would have never believed it," she said. 

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