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In the increasingly popular carol, O Holy Night, there is a line that has been resonating with me as we prepare for our second 'pandemic Christmas'....."The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices"
"Exhausted", is how most people respond when asked how are you doing nowadays.
Weary of the lockdowns, the injustices, the double standards, bereavements, the insecurity and uncertainty.
Weary that in 2021, despite our best efforts to maximise income for people through our benefit/debt advice there is still need for emergency Foodbank use in our society.
We can do these things only because of our donors. You are amazing people of HOPE. Its one of the defences we have against overwhelming weariness. There are too many to thank personally, but this year hundreds of individuals and organisations who have been so generous. It is our funding relationships with schools, businesses and trusts, that has enabled us to put in place an ambitious strategy to not just treat the symptoms of poverty- but to work on its causes too.
This year has seen us move to our own premises which is very exciting and we expect to welcome even more of you into this space for workshops, courses and events in 2022. The New Year will see some new preventative projects announced and of course we will continue to meet the needs of people as they arise.
For those of us of Christian faith there is the chance to once again connect with the amazing truth that God dignifies the human condition so much that God became 'flesh' and Christ was born not in an exalted place, but in the poverty and chaos of a 'weary world'. Thank you to the churches who host one of our projects or support us in another way.
For everyone, of any faith or none, however you 'do' Christmas - I trust that there can be a moment somewhere in the festivities where we can draw a line under the weariness of a pretty tough year, and find some strength to start a kinder more humane New Year.
That is certainly my wish for you all as we, together, journey though this 'weary world'.
To all our staff, volunteers, trustees, donors, supporters, referral partners, service users, clients and members : may I wish you a very Happy Christmas.
Keep safe and keep in touch with us in the New Year.
Chief Executive, Compassion Acts
Reg. Charity 1172948
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This week is Living Wage Week. Compassion Acts are proud to be a Living Wage Employer; one of almost 9000 employers in the UK to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.
The Living Wage campaign is an independent movement of businesses, organisations and people who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. Employers choose to pay the Real Living Wage on a voluntary basis and it provides an ethical benchmark for responsible pay.
The campaign for a Living Wage was launched by members of London Citizens in 2001. Parents in East London found that despite working on two or more minimum wage jobs they were struggling to make ends meet, and were left with no time for community and family life. This is also a trend we see borne out in our local area. The campaign is an example of how civil society, businesses and organisations can work together to tackle in-work poverty. It enjoys cross party support with public backing from successive Metropolitan Mayors and MPs across the UK, including First Ministers in Wales and Scotland.
The ‘Real Living Wage’ is independently calculated based on what employees and their families need to live. This is why it’s higher than the government minimum wage, somewhat confusingly rebranded as the ‘National Living Wage’. Employers voluntarily choose to pay it - changing people’s lives right now. It applies to all workers over 18 - recognising that young people have the same living costs as everyone else.
Compassion Acts Chief Executive Richard Owens comments “Our greatest asset as a small charity is our workforce. Colleagues who go above and beyond each week to help our service users. We are also committed to reducing poverty in society as a whole here in the Southport area, where many people struggle on below average wages. One of the ways that will be done is through increasing financial security- a Real Living Wage is part of that. So as a local employer too, we can do our bit.”
The campaign for a real Living Wage has now delivered more than £1.5billion in extra wages to workers since it began in 2001 and has lifted over 260,000 people out of in-work poverty.
Find out more and become a Living Wage employer today - Living Wage Foundation | For the real cost of living
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We are thrilled to have been awarded £1000 from the Tesco Community Grant for our Formby Food Pantry. Shoppers in the Formby Tesco voted for our project alongside two others in the area. Our Pantries are run by volunteers and rely on donations to stock the shelves.
Our Pantry Co-Ordinator, Vicki, says "It's amazing the support received by Tesco and it's shoppers !! We are so excited to expand the charity into the Formby area and this donation enables us to reach the wider community. Thank you so much."
Lead volunteer, Dympna, adds "It is great news about the Tesco grant. I know that there is a lot of goodwill towards the pantry locally."
Formby Food Pantry, which is in partnership with Churches Together in Formby, Altcar & Hightown, is for anyone who is just about managing financially. For just £5 per week, members get to choose from a range of products and get at least £20 worth of food and other essentials. Anyone who is not sure whether Food Pantry might be for them is encouraged to get in touch. Here's what some existing members have to say to us about the Pantry...
"Honestly the Food Pantry is helping so much."
"Thank you all. You have been so supportive and friendly."
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Today we launch our Christmas Hamper Appeal for 2021, which aims to support those in our local communities who may be struggling over the festive period.
Members of the public, local businesses and organisations are invited to fill a hamper with festive treats and gifts. These will then be passed on to individuals and families known to us through our foodbanks, food pantries and other projects.
Our Chief Executive, Richard, says “We are so looking forward to being able to bring some Christmas cheer to our clients at the end of what’s been a very difficult year. And we know how generous the people of Southport and the surrounding areas can be, especially around this time.”
Boxes can be collected from Victoria Centre on Sussex Road from November 1st. There is an optional donation of £1 to contribute towards the cost of the boxes themselves, which are also kindly sponsored by Southport Rotary Club. The boxes will come with a list of items, so we can ensure everyone receives a similar hamper.
The deadline for returning filled hampers is Friday 10th December. This is to allow enough time for them to be checked and distributed in time for Christmas. For all enquiries or to arrange collection of a box, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01704 264505.
Thank you so much in advance for your support and generosity!
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We are extremely pleased to confirm that we have signed a lease on our own premises at the former Victoria Methodist Church on Sussex Road in Southport.
“This amazing building is perfect for our needs.” says CEO Richard Owens “There is space to meet service users for advice and training. It will be our hub for volunteering and donations too.”
The Revd Marie-Ann Kent, superintendent minister of the Southport Methodist Circuit said: ‘We look forward to working with Compassion Acts, in continuing the mission of the church in this new and exciting way.’
We can't wait to welcome people to our new home!
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We are really pleased to announce that our new allotment project – ‘Growing Resilience’ is up and running! The plot is situated off Moss Road in Halsall. It provides an ideal environment for both clients of our Next Steps programme and our volunteers to improve their wellbeing. They will be able to get outdoors, learn new skills and meet new people. All while producing delicious home grown fruit and vegetables. Already we have potatoes, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb growing to name just a few.
We think this is a brilliant opportunity to nurture the local natural environment, increase appreciation of quality, fresh food, and give people a chance to discover a new hobby or reignite an old passion. Any surplus food grown will be distributed to our Food Pantries in Southport, Formby and Banks.
We were also very fortunate to receive a grant from Sefton’s Community Champions Fund, which has allowed us to purchase a new shed and plenty of new equipment for the project. Many thanks to Sefton Council, Sefton CVS and Living Well Sefton.
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In partnership with Churches Together in Formby, Altcar & Hightown, we have expanded our Food Pantry to cover Formby and the surrounding areas.
Every Monday morning, members will be able to go to Holy Trinity workshop to chose from a wide range of items which will then be delivered to their home on a Wednesday.
As with our other pantries, membership is £5 weekly and for this fee members can expect to get up to £20 worth of food and other items.
There will also be a trained adviser at the workshop every Monday to offer support and advice around welfare benefits and debt.
We are really excited to be able to do this work in Formby and look forward to hopefully helping those residents here who are just about managing.
For more information and details of how to become a member please visit Formby Pantry - #compassionacts
If you are interested in supporting this project, either through volunteering or with financial or food donations, please speak to a member of our team or visit our website.
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Compassion Acts has signed up to work with the Philippi Trust so that more of its clients, volunteers and staff can access the mental health support which they need, at a time and place of their choosing.
Compassion Acts runs an evolving web of services which are wholistic and all about preventing poverty and enhancing wellbeing. The most well known is the Southport Foodbank where last year 58,680 meals were distributed to those in crisis.
The Philippi Trust is a national charitable organisation that provides counselling and accredited counselling training. All counsellors are qualified to diploma level and specialise in many different forms of counselling, including family therapy.
“We know we can do more to support the vulnerable people we work with” says Richard Owens CEO of Compassion Acts “that is why we are working with our friends at Philippi to provide one to one services, training for our teams, courses and group work.”
“We are committed to offering counselling that is easily accessible and located in the heart of the community” says Justin Wales of Philippi, “that is why it is great to partner with Compassion Acts because they are in touch with so many people from all sort of situations.”
Already under this partnership Compassion Acts is commissioning blocks of counselling for its clients and there are plans to develop training courses for staff and volunteers and to provide simple and user friendly group sessions around personal resilience and managing stressful situations. This is part of the Compassion Acts new strategy to ‘go upstream’ and tackle the causes of poverty not simply dealing with the consequences.
Pictured: Justin Wales of Philippi Trust with Jess and Richard
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Here at Compassion Acts we are so proud of the partnerships we have with business, schools, churches and community groups. This last few months have been busier than ever!
Just a couple of examples are ASDA Southport who have provided funding for some of our shortage items (see pic), Bates Dairy who have provided milk for our Food Pantry and also eggs for our wellbeing bags recently in schools (see pic). Our friends at Sefton CVS have given us significant funding for household detergents for our clients and some community funding for our allotment project.
Work with us to meet our aims
All very relevant, because today we welcome to the team our new Influencing & Partnerships Manger called Arianne. She will be very happy to talk through creative suggestions for raising awareness or delivering our services in innovative and attractive ways. Email her on email@example.com
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During these unprecedented times, the charity behind Southport Foodbank has been aiming to reach families who have traditionally felt a sense of reluctance to rely on food projects.
An example is that a sample bag has been sent to around 100 families via primary schools locally- those mainly who have recently joined the free school meals system and are naturally unfamiliar with entitlements and options for advice. – including the non-judgmental in-house debt and benefits advice offered by Compassion Acts.
Another example is the emergence of good working partnership working Meols Cop High School on Norwood Road which has been forged over the last 12 months – especially Compassion Acts was able to support Meols Cop’s community food drive in summer 2020 with surplus food stock. A whole pallet of food items from a national wholesaler has been ordered by Compassion Acts for the school to distribute in February 2021 half term.
“We are aware that the need is growing among families” says Richard Owens, CEO of Compassion Acts “this was illustrated by the massive increase in the number of families accessing our services. So we wanted to move resources to the point where its easiest for people, and given the travel restrictions of lockdown, that will be their local school”
This term, after feedback from the school’s pastoral team about the difficulties faced by families in High Park getting to Foodbank sessions, the charity has shortened the process for Foodbank referrals so that the school is empowered to refer and distribute its own on-site Foodbank. The Youth & Community Centre which sits on the school’s grounds have been very supportive also supporting delivering the food to families who most need it.
Mr Parry, Headteacher of Meols Cop said “This pandemic has put the spotlight on so many challenges that our families are facing. It has been valuable to develop working relationships with partners who understand these challenges better than anyone. Through working with Compassion Acts and the team from the Youth Community Partnership we have now not only been able to support in the short term but also explore more long term sustainable support”
As has been widely publicised nationally with campaigns by footballer Marcus Rashford and others, it is school holidays which are particularly challenging for parents. Therefore, Compassion Acts and headteachers of local schools, including Mr Parry are pursuing every avenue of cooperation with Sefton Council and others to see what could happen in the long summer holidays.
• The charity also runs a Food Pantry, which is a club where people pay a contribution to access a choice of food, at nearby Bishop David Shepard Primary School