Our Community Engagement Manager Carol-Ann is working at St Luke’s during lockdown.

Like everyone else I was rather shocked when the government first announced the lockdown but extremely proud that St Luke’s made the decision to close to the public but remain open to serve the community who are most vulnerable. 

Due to social distancing measures many of my colleagues were furloughed and as Community Engagement Manager it was felt that my role would be necessary to link with community and organisations supporting people in need.

The first week of lockdown I was self-isolating and working from home and the care team continued to go into work and deliver lunches to our elderly members who were isolated. I live in Hackney and made the decision to walk to and back from work each day. The streets were eerily quiet and it was rather daunting but as soon as I walked in the centre on 30TH March I was so happy to see my colleagues and very impressed on how well St Luke’s had been spaced out and all staff were issued with PPE. 

We were still getting food donations from Felix Trust, City Harvest and Fare Share and were aware that Islington Foodbank unfortunately were unable to run during this period and the decision was made to distribute food from St Luke’s. Many of our families were struggling financially and we started taking referrals from Bright Start, HOYD, Kings Square nursery and other organisations who worked closely supporting the community.

Within the first week we received an enormous delivery of food with only a few hours’ notice. Everyone got stuck in including the Senior Management Team, Trustees Ray O’Halloran, Penny Seale and Cllr Una O’Halloran. 

April was particularly difficult as we learnt how the Coronavirus was affecting individuals. Tsedal has been doing an amazing job supporting people over the phone and signposting for health and welfare support.

The amount of households in need has expanded weekly and the food hub is now running three days per week with support from Amy and Deniz. Food donations also started to come in from Islington Council.

This has been a very difficult time, we are a small team and all of us have had days when we have felt a little low. Everyone has remained cheerful and through this the team’s humour, giggles, bad singing (sorry Marlo) has kept us all going.

So basically my days have been filled with sourcing and distributing food. I couldn’t have done this without our volunteers and a big shout out has to go to Marcia who has been instrumental in us doing our best to make families feel welcome and part of St Luke’s community when collecting food. Keren has secured funding to top up food, toiletries and basic essentials so that we can meet the growing need.

Over the past few months there are some wonderful highlights. The garden and the chickens have been kept in top condition by our volunteers who attend every day. Our beautiful Parent Forum have welcomed new members and shared lots of encouragement and wisdom. Children have brought us pictures to brighten up the centre and a proud new daddy brought his wife and new baby to come and meet us. Thomas has humoured Marcia and I by taking lots of photos of us posing with unusual shaped fruit and even got us doing little happy dances when we get excited about food donations. The Barbican emptied their bars of fruit and soft drinks to give to us and the Culture Mile are making up craft bags for the children. Paul helped us dress up the garden area and blasted out a bit of Vera Lyn so we could have a VE Day themed food hub with beautiful cakes from Gales Bakery and thanks to the Britannia pub we were able to invite everyone to do the ‘Tato Challenge’. 

We all miss our furloughed colleagues terribly and look forward to seeing their faces again. I am so proud to be a member of St Luke’s team, the last few months have been completely focused on serving our community and caring for those in need with a focus on sensitivity and kindness.

I am not sure how things will pan out and how St Luke’s will operate over the coming months but I do know that this pandemic has caused so much financial hardship in our community, our food distribution is increasing rapidly each week.  If you are able to please do donate to our JustGiving page and if you are in need of a little help please do call our main number 020 7549 8181.

Carol-Ann, Community Engagement Manager