‘People don’t like to ask - they have their pride’ - Christmas hampers organised for vulnerable residents
PUBLISHED: 11:30 06 November 2020
Volunteers in a close-knit Bury St Edmunds community are trying to ensure no family in need goes without this Christmas.
Members of the Howard Estate Green Hearts community group, formed earlier this year, are taking donations of items such as food and toys for Christmas hampers for vulnerable residents.
It follows the success of their work during the first national lockdown to collect items for NHS care packages, including food and toiletries, with 100 delivered to West Suffolk Hospital in April and May.
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Johnny Chandler, 53, one of the founders of Green Hearts, said there were nine drop-off points on the Howard and Mildenhall Road estates for goods for the Christmas hampers.
He said: “We are looking to aim for 50 or more for people on the Howard and Mildenhall Road estates. A lot of people don’t like to ask themselves - they have their pride.
“We are going to do it like a nomination. People can put their name forward and we can just turn up at their door saying ‘you have been nominated for a hamper’. It’s like a gift then.”
The group has been asking for donations including sweets, chocolates, toys, games, non-perishable food and Christmas novelty items.
Mr Chandler said: “It’s only like the first week. I had the idea of it about two months ago. I thought ‘we have done well for the NHS. Let’s look after people and the NHS’. It’s hard times.”
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He added: “Hopefully it will rub off on other estates. That’s the idea - everyone looking after where they live.”
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Mr Chandler, a former lorry driver who now works in carpet and upholstery cleaning, ‘man and van’ work and garden clearances, explained the group was formed in response to young people getting bullied on the estate.
On a community page, he said his home could be a safe house, which sparked the ‘Safe to Knock’ scheme where anyone in need of assistance can find help by looking for a house displaying a green heart.
The group also carries out work on the estate such as gardening and litter picking, and have fought for an outdoor gym, which is set to be built in early 2021.
Howard Green Hearts has been going from “strength to strength,” Mr Chandler said, and recently scooped an ‘Outstanding Achievement in the Community’ award from Bury in Bloom and the Bury Society.
Mr Chandler said: “I strongly believe that community engagement is crucial and by including children in projects that help vulnerable residents we will gain a mutual understanding and respect.
“The youngsters grow up knowing the adults around them and this reduces anti-social behaviour. It gives younger members of the community a focus as well as breaking down unhelpful stereotypes, creating a much closer-knit community.”
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David Irvine, oo-ordinator of Bury in Bloom, said: “The Green Hearts are an incredible example of what can be done by a small group working together and inspiring a whole community.”
•To nominate someone for a Christmas hamper send a private message through the Howard Estate Community Page on Facebook.
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