Community action group sets the bar for Covid-19 response

The Newington Green community continues to rise to the challenges posed by the virus

Friday, 24th July 2020 — By by Sam Ferguson

IslingtonTribune Image 2020-07-24 at 00.05.28 (11)

(Volunteers at the Newington Green Action Group’s Food Hub)

A COMMUNITY action group which became a model of sustainable action during the coronavirus pandemic is looking to carry on supporting those in need.

Volunteers for the Newington Green Action Group (NGAG) anticipated the growing food emergency, created a database for local businesses and recognised early the need for PPE in care homes.

“It’s been such a cumulative effect,” said organiser Jenny Kay, a Labour councillor in Mildmay.

“You see volunteers who have gotten to know three or four neighbours. If you multiply that by the hundreds of active volunteers we have then we’re reaching thousands of people.”

She added: “We made a database listing all the businesses that were open, who was offering takeaways, what hour they were open and so on. A few weeks later the council did something similar and they said it was inspired by us.”

As requests started coming in, volunteers realised the extent of the looming emergency food crisis unfolding on their doorsteps. “This is the first time as a councillor that I knew what the community needed and could make it happen without going through the bureaucratic process,” said Cllr Kay.

“That was when conversations started about the Food Hub.”

Run out of the Mildmay Club, the hub now helps more than 100 households a week and, more importantly, is used as a way to gain the trust of people who need more lasting support.

One person who asked not be named said he had not been sure he would survive the lockdown. “It was survival mode for a time,” he told the Tribune.

“It felt like the end of the world when the virus came.The group’s leaflet came through the door, and at first I was too anxious to call, but I did when things got desperate. The first time I spoke to a volunteer on the phone, I just broke down.

“I burst into tears again when many first package was delivered from the hub, and they’ve helped in so many ways since then.”

The NGAG was also fast to spot other emerging issues as the crisis unfolded. Sensing the need for PPE in care homes, it teamed up with the Stitch by Stitch business in Newington Green Road, and to date has made more than 650 cloth masks.

Half of those masks went to carers at the three care homes in the area, so they can travel to work with protection on public transport. NGAG has also used donations to buy and renovate 78 computers, delivered to Newington Green Primary and St Jude’s and St Pauls to help children struggling to learn from home.

“It’s been lovely to see the community come together,” added Cllr Kay. “We’ve been fully funded by residents and businesses locally. It’s been self sustaining, as people donate money and we spend money in local businesses, who then give us support with projects or donate items to the food bank.”

For more information on NGAG, visit their website at www.newingtongreen.org. You can also donate their GoFundMe page.

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