Buxton Street by Street: the journey so far…
After setting up the Buxton Street by Street COVID-19 Support group up on Facebook on March 16th, Anna was quickly joined by Claire and Caitlin who have been instrumental in building it into what it has become.
Notable successes to date have been after inviting just 100 friends to the Facebook group, there are now nearing 2,800 members; there have been nearly 4,000 posts sharing all the latest COVID-19 news, updates on the work we are doing and information on local support services, businesses and events. We have over 100 volunteers performing a multitude of tasks, including safely supporting their neighbours with shopping, posting letter, collecting prescriptions, dog walking and telephone befriending offered to every house on all 307 streets in Buxton. We estimate that a total of 1000 individual trips such as these have been made by volunteers (excluding the food parcel deliveries) since we began in March 2020.
A food parcel collection, packaging and delivery scheme has so far distributed 4,181 parcels of surplus supermarket groceries kindly donated by Aldi UK, Morrisons and Waitrose, food hampers and lunches for children who are entitled to free school meals and presents to families over Christmas to a total of 150 Buxton households, in addition to individuals who were supported by High Peak Food Bank. Our collaborations with the Serpentine Community Garden, Waste Not Want Not at the United Reformed Church, Buxton Lions, Christmas in the Community and other local businesses and organisations, has meant that together we are able to increase the reach to the local community.
This incredible achievement has been made possible with Caitlin’s networking and organisational skills and as an employee of High Peak Food Bank after they asked her to join their team. Home delivery of all the above has been diligently carried out by he most formidable team of volunteers- our ‘Whirling Dervishes’!; Richard, Steve, Mel, Barry, Kevin, Steve (who travelled in from Chelmorton), Emma, David, Jackie, Georgia, Nerissa, Jim, Morgause, Jean, Fran, Jo, Jane, Alison, Lynn, Belinda and Emma!
Between April and September 2020, surplus food was collected early in the morning most days of the week from local supermarkets, along with freshly grown and harvested organic salad bags provided by the Serpentine Community Garden, then packaged by Carmel (who also donated the volunteer ID lanyards at the beginning), Stacey (from Zinc’s High Peak Food Bank) and Maddie, with the support of Rob Harrison – Morrison’s Community Champion, who has continued to work hard to source surplus food and goods- including 2,500 Easter eggs delivered to all Buxton Primary schools in April 2020 and 145 pizza making kits during the February 2021 half-term!
In excess of 300 washable home-made facemasks manufactured and donated by Susan Taylor of Taylor Made in Chapel-en-le-Frith along with other volunteer sewers such as Jeannie Monaghan, have been distributed to both secondary schools in Buxton, after face coverings became mandatory in these settings. Our previous work with the national Scrub Hub initiative, meant that we were able to contribute volunteers and materials to assist with this important provision- supplying PPE to local care homes, an Eating Disorder organisation and Social Services, amongst others.
In October 2020, Buxton Street by Street was able to join CONNEX, after they were successful in securing a £35,000 Community Lottery grant, to ensure we could continue our work and develop new initiatives through joint-working with their CEO Gill Geddes, their Business Development Officer Debbie Hacket, Emma Preece their Office and Facilities Co-ordinator and supported by all the rest of the team and board of Trustees.
We have been going from strength to strength ever since!
Further support has come in the shape of ‘Alan’s Challenge’, an enduro bike ride spanning several weeks, undertaken by CONNEX Trustee, Alan Thompson, in order to raise funds for Buxton Street by Street and CONNEX.
Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes, we have a team of hard-working volunteers who ensure volunteer information is collected and our operations run smoothly. Initially Jane and Moira performed the task of collating all volunteer information- no small task! Richard Graham of Buxton Website Design keeps us all on-track with the website he built and gifted to us at the beginning, to ensure it offers easily accessible information and acts as an up-to-date resource hub, complimenting our Facebook group news feed.
Our easy Help Next Door referral and volunteer enrollment section of the website gifted by Judge Services, means that we can direct all enquiries to this, tightening up our operations still further.
Emma Fairbrother-Firth of Do Some Work, a local Graphic Designer, created and gifted our fantastic logo which is now a familiar image to Buxton residents!
We have a skilled and diligent team of website content ‘updaters’ supported by Claire and Anna; Celia, Jeannie, Anna, Sarah, Rach and Ava- who is just 17! They add and edit relevant Facebook posts to the website on a rota basis using WordPress- a website building application many of them have never used before! We had help with this important public information task previously from Kim and Ian too.
Press coverage and recognition
Buxton Street by Street has attracted the attention of the local press and radio championed by Jen Francis of Explore Buxton, our profile has been raised far and wide enough to ensure that even people living in other countries who have relatives in Buxton they are worried about, have been able to contact one of us to request help for them. Indeed, we have been approached by residents of local towns and villages asking whether we could increase our boundaries to include them. We are now supporting residents in Cowdale, Chelmorton and Peak Dale because of Jen’s keen eye for a good story and Rich’s responsive and professionalism in the face of the the many twists and turns this initiative has been characterised by from the get-go!
Buxton Street by Street has been able to share it’s story and the details of future plans during two BBC Radio Derby interviews and a front-page feature of the Buxton Advertiser.
Our team was recognised as a ‘best practice’ example of a voluntary community organisation by the High Peak CVS and in a letter of recognition from the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire. Buxton Street by Street has also received a High Peak Heroes award. Although this recognition is gratefully received, everyone in Buxton Street by Street has been motivated only by their enduring desire to improve the lives of those around them and come together as described by one 90 year-old resident, in ways not seen since the Blitz.
Take a look at our short celebration film created by local Videographer, Jamie Agnew of the Agnew Film Company to see how our wonderful team have pulled together during the pandemic!
As a responsive service, we are adapting to the changing world around us and the legacy of the pandemic which is impacting in do many ways on families across the UK. Our volunteers have a vital role to play in shaping our offer in that as neighbours, they are able to witness first hand the needs of those living in their Ward.
For example, Cazza had a personal ambition to create a community edible garden and play space in Fairfield. By bringing this concept to Buxton Street by Street, we have been able to put together a fantastic team of volunteers made up of experts in the ‘field’ and are presently in phase 1 of the project which will serve to enhance the appearance and bio-diversity of the ‘Lont’ on Granby Road.
Anna was approached by a local Cafe owner and Buxton Street by Street volunteer, Carolyn Kidd in September 2020, who wished to find a way to provide emergency financial assistance to Buxton residents in the wake of the economic impact experienced by not just those in receipt of benefits. A new service is presently being developed called the ‘Breadline’ by Caz, Caitlin, Claire and Anna and made possible with the support of CONNEX which will be launched soon!
In addition, the huge success and uptake over Christmas 2020 of the Helping Hands and Christmas in the Community initiatives, meant that a need was identified for an on-going bank of clothes, gifts and other items often not accessible to families on low incomes.
In January, Claire approached a local GP surgery to offer support around the huge marshalling operation during COVID vaccination clinics running there. Her work with Tina Riley who is on Furlough presently, has meant that their service has been able to run more smoothly with the support of 250 volunteers (and rising) including Buxton Street by Street volunteers, freeing up the practice to focus on the heroic task of ensuring their patients receive their vaccines, both at the GP hubs and and at the new vaccination centre on St John’s Road.
A new project plan is being devised by Buxton Street by Street, KIrsty Lowndes of Buxton Baby Bank and CONNEX to create a pool of items (including second hand School Uniform) in a single Buxton location accessible to all throughout the year. Our aim is to be able to offer the whole family items they need for example when a new baby arrives, starting school (and onwards), or a child or young person in the family has a birthday coming up and finances are tight.
Our ability to gather up-to-date information about the needs of our community, means that we are also aware of the burgeoning mental health crisis facing many people as a result of COVID within our town. We are working with a number of local youth support organisations, including NHS and Derbyshire County Council services as well as the Federation for Mental Health and Funny Wonders- a local puppetry and performance arts company, to formulate a Peer Support network, to assist in the transition back to ‘normal’ after a year of uncertainty for school-children and disruptions to their social networks and in some cases, academic attainment.
An ICT and telephone befriender service is in operation, with residents taking advantage of the DBS checked volunteers who come from a variety of relevant professional backgrounds, are calling those most in need on a regular basis to ensure that the impact of COVID hasn’t resulted in too much hardship.
A youth forum peer support initiative presently being developed between Buxton Street by Street and Derbyshire County Council, focusses on how the pandemic has impacted upon social connections between young people and their loss of previous networks which developmentally, is essential to wellbeing and also future academic and work prospect success.
Coming from a firmly held view that a successful team must first start with a shared vision and achieve it’s goal through trust, commitment, compassion for oneanother and hard work in equal measure, Anna was inspired by the difference her parents Doug and Chris Agnew made within their local community during their lives, most notably in Buxton and summed up in the words of one of her greatest heroes;
‘It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it can become’
Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)