VENUE space and volunteers provided at Edgbaston Stadium by Warwickshire County Cricket Club have proved a vital cog in a “fantastic collective effort” which is distributing food to those in need across Birmingham.
More than six tonnes of food – equivalent to filling more than 2,000 bags of shopping – have been delivered across the city in the past four weeks in a project co-ordinated by local charity Thrive Together Birmingham through the collaboration with Warwickshire CCC’s official charity, the Edgbaston Foundation.
Ravi Masih, lead of the Edgbaston Foundation, contacted Thrive to offer support. That support has seen the Exhibition Hall at the stadium deployed as a food sorting and distribution centre and more than 20 furloughed employees of the club working in it as volunteers.
No food donations are made on site at Edgbaston. They can be made just around the corner at St Mary and Saint Ambrose Church, on Raglan Road, between 11am and 2pm every Friday.
The food is then sorted and repackaged at the stadium and sent on to food banks and community groups throughout Birmingham.
Volunteers working with West Midlands Police are also supporting Thrive by collecting food from residents who cannot get to the donation point in person.
Fred Rattley, CEO of Thrive Together Birmingham, said: ‘“The Edgbaston Foundation’s involvement has been a godsend to us.
“Ravi and I had worked together before so, when the lockdown came in, Ravi rang me and said: ‘What can we do?’ The club had some space and also some people who were furloughed and were keen to contribute as volunteers.
“It has been a massive help to us. The Exhibition Hall is perfect, with lots of secure space and great access. The volunteers supplied by the club have done brilliant work and helped take the pressure off our existing volunteers.
“Demand for food at foodbanks around the city continues to grow so this is a fantastic collective effort from the cricket club, the police and, of course, all the people who donate and collect food.
“We have more than 100 ‘street champions’ around the city who collect from their street and we are so grateful to every one of them.”
Food has been delivered to foodbanks and emergency food distributors all over the city including Sparkhill, Balsall Heath, Erdington, Yardley, Ward End, Northfield, Highgate, Druids Heath, Winson Green and Garetts Green, as well as to specialist groups such as Brum Baby Bank, The Active Wellbeing Society, ANAWIM (Women Working Together) and St Basil’s who support young people experiencing homelessness.
Mr Masih said: “Since we moved into the forced stadium closure, club staff have been committed to doing all we can to make a difference in our local community by providing free use of our stadium and grounds, fund-raising for important causes and through volunteering.
“We’re thrilled we can build on our community response during this period by working with such a fantastic charity, in Thrive Together Birmingham, to support those in need.
“Club staff have joined together with some members of the Warwickshire playing squad on our Tuesday repackaging and Friday sorting and storage volunteer shifts.
“Whilst it’s a small part to play in the bigger picture of the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re thrilled our community response can lend a helping hand, with more than £20,000 of food and other items sorted and repackaged for those in need.”
A link for donations has also been set up at www.tiny.cc/feedbirmingham and has raised nearly £4,000 to date.
Words by Brian Halford.