We continue to serve the community despite lockdown measures.
The pandemic has brought many challenges, but for the most vulnerable members of our community, the constraints of lockdown have made life even more uncertain.
Over the past months, Open Door, who have supported homeless, lonely and disadvantaged people all year-round, has been constantly adapting so it can continue offering food, friendship and a lifeline to those in need in spite of lockdown measures.
In March 2020, as Government guidelines made it impossible to welcome people into our Grosvenor Street premises, staff at Cheltenham Open Door distributed food parcels. As restrictions began to ease in mid-June, we began serving takeaway hot meals.
Our core team of just three permanent staff took on the additional task of delivering food parcels to 50 or so people experiencing homeless in the county who were being temporarily housed. The usual food parcel contents were adapted to be suitable for those who only had a kettle and a fridge at their disposal.
In the first eight weeks of lockdown alone, 2,250 packs of instant noodles and soups, 752 loaves of bread, jars of jam and peanut butter, 14,400 butter portions and 1,128 pieces of fresh fruit were delivered, as well as other food items, toiletries, books and treats. Currently, we are serving around 230 hot meals a week, advertised on our colourful and ever-changing menu boards.
Sara Reader has been with us at Open Door for 25 years – first as a volunteer and then as the charity’s Co-ordinator. She has come to know many of the guests – those people whom Open Door supports – well. “Our guests have different circumstances and backgrounds,” she explains. “Some have lost their jobs or are unable to work, others are struggling with mental health or addiction. They may be homeless or isolated, lonely, or far from their families. Everyone who comes to us, we greet with a smile; we offer a listening ear and we do not judge.”
With winter approaching, Open Door – which relies completely on donations – has launched its annual Christmas appeal. Current guidelines have made the annual Christmas shelter out of the question, however Open Door is determined to bring festive cheer to each and every one of its guests. “This year there will be Christmas Eve food, treats and stockings for our guests to collect,” says Sara. “And on Christmas Day, lunch with all the trimmings, gifts and a high tea.”
Julie Kent, the charity’s Chair is proud of how the staff put themselves on the frontline for others. “This organisation has been a lifesaver for nearly 30 years but 2020 has proved to be a particular challenge,” she says. “People can help us with our Christmas campaign by donating gift items and food parcel fillers. We also need volunteers for our post-Christmas ‘Big Sort’, when the influx of donations is organised for the year ahead.
“We’re a small charity so the goodwill of every single supporter – from individuals who drop by with food items and those who volunteer time to our local corporate donors – increases our power to help others over the festive period and throughout the year.”
Visit our Christmas page to find out how to support Cheltenham Open Door this Christmas.