Making a difference

Making a difference

‘Thanks to our members, we’ve helped 25,000 causes across the UK’

Simply by shopping at Co-op, our members raise millions of pounds to help local causes through our Local Community Fund. It’s around this time every year that the money raised is shared out. Read on to hear first-hand what a difference it makes

Winners Community Group CIC

Arlette Omba-Shako (pictured below), is the manager of Winners Community Group CIC in Ilford. The project works with elderly people in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, helping promote social connections, health and wellbeing. ‘Many in our community are living in isolated conditions or feel lonely — often because of the language barrier,’ Arlette tells us. ‘We arrange events and activities, which help to keep our community connected.’

Music and dancing are two of the most popular activities. ‘People come together and make friendships and connections with others, and this really helps them,’ Arlette says. 

‘I’m most proud of the work that we’ve done around communication. Before, many in our community were unable to use technology — some of them couldn’t use the telephone. Now, some of the older community know how to use Zoom, and are even showing their grandchildren how it works. They laugh together and say to the grandkids, “How am I able to use this and you’re not!” They’re happy and proud of themselves for doing something.’

Every Christmas, the group celebrates with a festive dinner. ‘We come together because not everyone has people to celebrate with,’ Arlette says. ‘I try to buy them each a present to thank them for coming to the events we put on during the year.’

Star Project

For Heather Kay, (pictured above, bottom-right) manager of Star Project in Paisley, Scotland, community is all about creating connections: ‘We’ve been going for 22 years as a one-stop shop, grass-roots organisation. When the community is interested in doing something or would like help, we try to make it happen through our drop-in service. People come in for a cup of tea and a chat, and we offer one-to-one support. We also offer therapy workshops and, during the pandemic, were working with Co-op to deliver surplus food from local stores to anyone who needed it. I say that we’re the community version of Google. If we don’t do it, we’ll find someone who does!’

It was through listening to the needs of young men in the community that the project Chin Up was created in 2019, to try and tackle the rise in mental health-related emergencies. 

‘The men themselves came together and said we need to provide a psychologically safe place for men to meet and talk about mental health and addictions, and see a way through it,’ explains Heather. ‘They were looking for a bit of support from Star Project. The guys come in and do work on anxiety, stress, depression; and now they’re focused on giving back to the community. For example, they’ve completed a beautiful big mural (pictured above, middle-left), which says “We ran like a pack of wolves, we are now proud as lions”. They’ve hiked up a mountain to raise money for a young man with haemophilia, and always help Star Project with fundraisers. They’re remarkable men with so much to give.

‘This is an incredible community,’ Heather continues, ‘and it’s a privilege to work with them. It’s the only job where someone tells us about an issue and we can put something in place and see the difference immediately.’


HOW WE’RE CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS

‘Every year we give out presents to all our community members, and have a festive drop-in. We’d love to be able to see everyone in person this year’
Heather Kay, Star Project

‘Hopefully we’ll be able to have our traditional Christmas dinner in December. Everyone wears an African outfit called a wrapper. It looks amazing, so bright and colourful!’
Arlette Omba-Shako, Winners Community Group CIC

‘This year we’ll be putting together “Christmas in a box” for families that don’t always have the budget for festive celebrations. Our Christmas box includes six crackers, Advent calendars, centrepieces, small gifts for children and healthy food, too. It’s these things that help stretch people’s budgets a little further’
Janet Lymer, Calder Community Cares


Calder Community Cares

The pandemic showed local resident Janet Lymer (pictured below, top-right in the blue vest, with Co-op Member Pioneer Caroline Beardsmore) that there was an immediate need for the community to pull together in Hebden Bridge and the Upper Calder Valley area, West Yorkshire. And so Calder Community Cares was born. 

‘I had to help,’ says Janet. ‘I could see there was going to be a huge need to support the elderly in our valley. In the early days we just did what everyone was doing: picking up shopping, organising meds, providing a telephone service for anyone who was shielding to check in and chat. My short-term goals were making sure people felt safe, supported and valued.

‘Caroline was one of our first volunteers. She’s been essential in guiding us,’ says Janet. Co-op has also sponsored a fridge for Calder to use, and they’re part of Food Share, whereby Co-op stores give products that are going out of date to local community groups at the end of each day to prevent food waste. 

Calder will be holding a Christmas fundraiser, but Janet says it’s the support from Co-op Members that makes the real impact: ‘Now we can provide extra, special things above just subsistence. For instance, to help make Christmas special for local families, we’re putting together “Christmas in a box” — all the things that help make the budget stretch further, like crackers and centrepieces, as well as small presents for kids.’ 

The relationship with Co-op and bringing in Caroline’s expertise have been key. Janet says: ‘Having Caroline on board has been extraordinary. We didn’t know what we were doing — we had lots of enthusiasm, but no experience. And it’s not just the finance, it’s the whole relationship between the stores and Caroline. It’s given us the confidence to be sure we’re on the right track and delivering properly to our community, and that really matters to me.’


YOU’VE HELPED US HELP OUR COMMUNITIES

These causes have been able to provide support for their local communities, thanks to Co-op Members


Deal must be activated on Co-op App or coop.co.uk

Co-op Members only. MEMBERS CO-OP APP DEAL starts 10 November 2021 and ends 30 November 2021. Open to Co-op Group Members who activate the deal via the Co-op App or coop.co.uk/membership before 30 November and subsequently scan their membership when purchasing Scalini Prosecco 75cl and/or Fox’s Fabulously 550g before 30 November 2021 in any instore transaction. Subject to availability. Please drink responsibly. For every member who redeems this offer following activation, we’ll also donate £1 to the Local Community Fund. Donations will be shared between the causes in each community as part of their interim payout in April 2022. For new members, £1 membership joining fee applies. For full T&Cs see coop.co.uk/terms.