‘We can do so much as a community’ - town’s charity provides lifeline through pandemic
PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 October 2020
Charity leader Nick Corke says Framlingham is a special place with a strong spirit of togetherness, as shown by the success of Hour Community.
The small Suffolk charity supports people from the town and surrounding villages in a whole range of ways, from community transport to meal deliveries, with people pulling together to help one another.
CEO Mr Corke has been at the heart of it all since the start, but insists: “It’s not about me and I’m not a hero - there’s a whole group of people involved. We can do so much as a community.”
As its name suggests, Hour Community is all about giving up your time for others. The initiative began in 2011, set up by Framlingham Rotary Club.
“The original idea was for people to pledge an hour of their time to help other people, by doing DIY and jobs for them,” Mr Corke said. “People could also pledge an hour of their salary instead.”
The idea really caught on - and, from initially organising a “few odd jobs”, Hour Community quickly became so much more.
Mr Corke paid tribute to the charity’s whole team, volunteers and supporters. He also thanked his wife Anne, who supports him by working full-time, and got involved in things like delivering meals during lockdown.
MORE: Volunteers deliver food to elderly during pandemic
He himself has a background in the property sector. He joined Rotary in 1999, and became involved in a number of international projects.
Over the years, he has travelled to Belarus, Poland, France, Germany, Holland and Belgium. He has also visited India four times, where he helped to set up two microfinance projects, a cataract project and a sanitary napkin project for rural communities.
The 63-year-old said the inspiration for Hour Community came when members of Rotary were asked to help with a gardening project for Mills Meadow care home in Framlingham.
The residents really appreciated seeing the beautiful flowers, and there was a poignant moment when one woman with dementia, who had not spoken for three years, pointed to a flower and said: “Pink”.
Reaching out to people who are isolated is a key part of Hour Community’s role. It offers befriending services, and started providing transport after a blind man living in Framlingham said it took him nearly all day to get to an appointment and back, following cuts to bus services.
The charity now has a 14-seat minibus and five-seat car, which are both wheelchair accessible and can be used for hospital visits and other medical appointments. Transport and some other services make a small charge just to cover costs, and ensure they can go on supplying the service.
“We had also been taking residents from Mills Meadow on outings, but sadly we can’t do that at the moment because of the current situation,” Mr Corke said.
A more unusual transport option is the charity’s trishaws - cycle-powered chairs in which two people sit in front of the cyclist, used to take elderly residents on trips around the town
Mr Corke got a surprise last year when he was approached to take one of the trishaws to London, for Ant and Dec to use it in filming for Britain’s Got Talent.
MORE: Ant and Dec take a spin on Suffolk trishaw
A group of volunteers also run the Forget Me Not club, a dementia-friendly lunch club.
Another key project is the Worry Tree Cafe, a community mental health cafe created by Mr Corke’s daughter, Millie, after her own experiences with mental illness. The cafe, which has won the backing of Ed Sheeran, has just started socially distanced meetings again following lockdown.
During coronavirus lockdown, the charity moved from Mr Corke’s home into the function room of the Crown Hotel, which the hotel generously offered, and started offering even more services.
“We sat down to have a look at what we could do,” Mr Corke said. “We had 130 volunteers who came forward in the first week.” Although not all of those continued, a core did.
Services provided included delivering meals prepared by the Crown to elderly people, and doing shopping for people who were self-isolating, making sure they had access to food and essentials.
And over half term the charity has been offering food supplies for families in its area on free school meals.
Mr Corke said: “I am hoping a lot of communities are going to start planning and pulling together more as a result of coronavirus, going forward.”
He added: “I just feel incredibly lucky that I am doing something I really want to do. I happen to be someone who is very passionate about doing community service and community work and I am having a fantastic time.”
As well as his work for Hour Community, he is also chairman of the Mills Charity, which is building new almshouses in Framlingham. He doesn’t have time for many hobbies, but is a loyal Ipswich Town supporter.
If you want to volunteer or donate, or need help, you can visit the Hour Community website, email email@example.com or contact 01728 411533. The charity is currently open five mornings a week.
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