Q and A with Liz Phillips, Make Lunch Coordinator Extraordinaire in Nottinghamshire

Q and A with Liz Phillips, Make Lunch Coordinator Extraordinaire in Nottinghamshire

09th June 2020

Liz recently won Runner Up for The Telegraph’s Lockdown Awards in the Community Hero category! We had a chat with Liz, who gave us a bit of insight into her role as Make Lunch Coordinator in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire.

Life really does feel so strange at the moment! How are you and your family fairing in lockdown?

I’ve settled into a bit of a routine during lockdown. This looks like going to the Ollerton Centre in the morning and then Warsop in the afternoon. It helps that, while I’ve not had physical contact with people, I’ve still been able to have plenty of chats. As a family we’ve been able to keep in touch through video calls which helps - but I have to say I can’t wait to give my children and grandchildren hugs. I’m sure I will be crying!

How did you first hear about TLG?

It was quite a while ago, so if my memory serves me right it was online or an email. I remember thinking “Wow that’s a great idea! But will I be able to get volunteers to volunteer their time during the school holidays?”. I didn’t need to worry - the team were really up for it!

How long have you been volunteering with TLG for?

I reckon it must be 5 -6 years now! Wow where has the time gone?

We’ve all heard the phrase “COVID-19 isn’t a leveller”. After sending out over 500 Boxes of Hope in your community, do you think this virus has impacted inequality in your area and, if so, how? 

I think the virus is a leveller in that anyone of us could catch the virus. However, some people don’t have the ability to stockpile food or stay completely in isolation. The Boxes of Hope have been such an encouragement to the families that have received them. These families have been able to ‘breathe’ because some of the pressure they were carrying has been relieved.  

Has your perception on food poverty in your community changed at all over the past few weeks? Are there any moments that have been particularly striking to you? What do you think is the biggest thing you have learned? 

I actually don’t think we have seen the full impact of this virus yet. In my experience, there are different types of poverty that have been highlighted during this pandemic. Some people have food poverty - when people don’t have the finances or the ability to do their shopping. Some people have financial poverty - they may have lost their jobs (or income if self-employed) or had their salaries reduced, and others are surviving on benefits. For many, a trip to the local foodbank looks like the norm. I also think that some people have struggled from a poverty of connection. Some of the most vulnerable people we serve are completely isolated from their families, neighbours or even the wider community. It has been lovely to see where some of those gaps have been filled by people taking time out to think of others.  

70 volunteers – you must be an incredibly organised person to help coordinate everyone. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced over the past few weeks? 

I am very grateful to a group of amazing people who have been able to work together so well. We always wanted to ensure that everything we did was of the highest standard possible and completed with appropriate safeguarding and training. I have to say my husband has been amazing and so supportive during all of this. His ability to do funding bids has been invaluable.

I think the biggest challenge was making sure that we had recruited and trained the volunteers to an appropriate standard for the role that they were doing. Pulling together all the policies and procedures was a huge task. People were really keen to help, they were incredibly enthusiastic and flexible.

We’ve all had to learn new ways of doing things, including new technologies and working routines. We have all learned the COVID-Shuffle - the little dance you do to make sure you are 2 metres away from someone!

Shopping was a huge issue at the beginning of the project. People were stockpiling at home, making it difficult to access some items quickly. The local supermarkets were brilliant though and we worked out sensible processes which helped us to purchase essential items. The local food bank was unable to continue running during this time due to the restrictions on some of their volunteers, so they very generously gave us a really good supply of food to make sure we could operate quickly.

What inspires you to keep going, despite the challenges?

I love it when we get a little note or message from someone who’s had a Box of Hope. It’s so lovely to know that what you are doing is making a difference. One of my highlights in the week is when we have all the weeks figures collated and we can see what we have all achieved. It’s a bitter sweet moment. It is sad that so many people are experiencing such difficult times, but we are so thankful that we can make things a little bit more bearable.  

What would you say to those who are looking to serve their community practically at this time?

If you want to make a difference in your community then a simple smile can make all the difference. The chat over the garden fence or the quick phone call to someone can have more impact on a person that you can ever imagine. If you want to do more, then I would encourage people to get involved in a well-organised project that takes the safety of their volunteers seriously.  

YOUR church can get involved with our nation-wide Box of Hope Scheme too! We will give you EVERYTHING you need to get started, including £200 start-up funding and comprehensive resources! Click here to find out more.

Jasmine Le Ny

Jasmine Le Ny

Jasmine graduated from The University of Sheffield in the summer of 2019, and has been working for TLG since. She's worked within the Volunteer Programmes and Supporter Relations teams, and is now serving TLG within Comms and Influence. A lover of the outdoors and cooking, she is passionate about seeing the local church in action to support the most vulnerable in society.

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