Businesses urged to unite for community action
BUSINESSES throughout Wirral are being urged to come together to support a ground-breaking project that plans to put new life into the local community.
Progress to Excellence Ltd is adding its weight to a campaign which puts the spotlight on challenges facing some of the hardest-hit people in the borough and how everyone – regardless of their social circumstances – can do something to bring about change.
The Wirral 50 Club, launched by Birkenhead-based Neo Community, is asking businesses to sign up as founder members, pledging a small amount each month to support the charity whose work includes tackling food poverty, waste and social isolation.
A unique feature of the service is its inclusivity, not only reaching out to those living on low incomes but also to create a “go-to” facility for the wider community.
Damian Burdin, Chief Executive of Progress to Excellence Ltd, said: “A commitment to working together is a first step to bringing about change.
“On a recent visit to Neo Community, colleagues and I were bowled over by the spirit and passion that drives this project. Hearing some of the stories of how people have been helped and supported by the work of the team there made us realise there was only one course of action – to sign up for the Wirral 50 Club and persuade other companies to do the same.”
Volunteering will also play a major part in how businesses can help Neo by initiatives such as skills knowledge and support. Already, Leanne Tutill, Progress to Excellence Group Ltd Management Accountant, has pledged to give her own time to assist the charity.
Based at Beaconsfield House in Rock Ferry, Neo Community was formed five years ago and, from its early days, became recognised as a local force for good through offers of food assistance and support for people in need.
Now, it has its own social food market. Its purpose is two-fold: to provide essential items of food where customers can pay a lot less than in commercial supermarkets – or in some desperate cases, pay nothing at all – and all proceeds go back into Neo’s vital community funds.
Neo Community’s Managing Director Ema Wilkes explained: “Our vision and passion has, from the outset, been to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the local community as well as develop their skills, open up opportunities and reduce social isolation.
“At the forefront of what we do is raise awareness about food waste and educate those in the community about healthy eating and nutritious diets.”
The food market is used by a diverse range of customers from those struggling on a low income to people who simply support the Neo project by shopping there on a regular basis.
She said: “Our supermarket is totally inclusive with our customers coming from every background and income range. Whatever their financial contribution, all the money all goes back to providing and supporting our community services.”
Last Christmas, Neo filled 80 food hampers and helped 400 individuals – families, isolated pensioners and young people – from the Birkenhead area and distributed 15 hampers in the Leasowe area.
At Beaconsfield House, there are many community-led activities which cater for and include sessions for children, OAP bingo and youth dinner clubs. They also offer open cookery classes where people are taught how to source and cook their own food from scratch. Neo also offers event catering and food bag deliveries to those who can’t get to the centre.
One of their latest initiatives, the Feed Birkenhead Project, Neo provided food for more than 2,000 children over the summer holidays last year, plus a further 900 in the October half-term. The charity also sells home-cooked healthy food at Tranmere Rovers Football Club on home match days where they also collect food items from the public to give out with their crisis bags.