By Damian Dolan
A GAA club in Coventry is doing its bit to help during the Covid-19 pandemic – by helping to feed those most in need in these difficult times.
Members of St Finbarrs have been collecting and delivering food to isolated, vulnerable and elderly Irish people in their community.
The club held its first ‘food drop’ last Friday – a weekly opportunity for people to donate food, which St Finbarrs will then distribute.
The club has also lent its services in support of a local food bank charity, the Trussell Trust.
It’s all part of its desire to “really make a difference” – the driving force behind which is St Finbarrs assistant secretary Stephen Davies.
“St Finbarrs is a community club and at the time of a crisis the club will support those who are finding it challenging – such as elderly Irish people who are vulnerable,” Stephen told the Irish World.
“The more food we get, the bigger difference we can make. That’s what it’s all about. We’re a community club so let’s support our community in a time of need.”
It’s been a real club effort; chairperson Danny Coleman, Kevin Ward, Olivia Rose, Robert Lanphier and Stephen’s brother, Rhys, are amongst those to have gotten involved, as well as the club’s juvenile teams.
The symbol of St Finbarrs is a heart and its juveniles have been writing “messages of hope” which are then placed inside the food parcels.
“We’ve got lots of people who are all contributing as best they can – whether that’s driving the mini bus, dropping off food, going to the warehouse, making the food parcels, manning the food drop,” said Stephen, who works as a teacher.
Keen to do something to help following the coronavirus outbreak, the club initially began reaching out to people they knew of, who might be struggling.
They checked on their general well-being, as well as offering actual support such as getting shopping.
But the club wanted to do more. They contacted supermarket chain Morrisons, who have several stores in the area, and they agreed to donate some food.
The club created food parcels which it then delivered to the vulnerable and elderly.
They also made drops to local schools, who then distributed it to more than 50 vulnerable families.
That included 300 Easter eggs donated by Morrisons and shared out between local schools, the elderly and children of key workers, NHS staff and police officers.
Any surplus food was donated by Finbarrs to the Trussell Trust – a nationwide network of food banks which provide emergency food and support to people in poverty. It has 16 Foodbank Centres across Coventry.
Since the onset of the coronavirus, the Trust has been experiencing a “phenomenal increase in demand” says Stephen.
But rather than just collecting food and delivering it to the Trust, the club offered its services to help create the food parcels and then deliver them.
“The Trust has been really appreciative; they’ve been overwhelmed. It’s also been positively received by the schools and the elderly,” said Stephen.
“And when we’re dropping food off, it’s also an opportunity to talk to people and ask how they are. They appreciate that as well.”
Last week the club held its first food drop – every Friday between the hours of 9am and 12pm people will be able to donate food to St Finbarrs Sports and Social Club in Holbrook Lane.
Alternatively, the club is happy to collect any items. It will then be distributed with any food left over donated to the Trussell Trust.
“We originally thought it was going to be just for last Friday, but this is an on-going crisis. We want to make it sustainable,” said Stephen.
“We don’t want it to be a one-off; we want to help as much as we can.”
They’ve been delivering at least 20 containers of food a day to the Trust, and directly delivered to more than 70 Irish households.
Stephen says the club now hopes to carry this on beyond the coronavirus.
“We’ve a good link now with the Trussell Trust and we want to continue that,” he said.
To find out more or to donate contact Stephen Davies 07795 178774 or Danny Coleman 07834 058883.