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Emergency fund reaches people in need

Two Baptist ministers in Southend have helped to create an emergency fund that has supported those badly affected during the pandemic

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A man unable to work yet not entitled to benefits and at risk of becoming homeless. A woman who had escaped abuse, living in a friend’s room with her three children, and nothing to her name. Families with children who have special educational needs. Vulnerable people shielding with limited access to food. People suffering from anxiety and unable to pay bills.
These are just some of those on the margins in Southend who have been supported by an emergency fund with two Baptist ministers at its heart.
Peter Dominey of Church from Scratch, fellow Baptist minister Ivan King and their friend beyond the church, local businessman Alan Kirkman, created the Southend Emergency Fund at the start of lockdown after recognising the coronavirus outbreak was going to have an immediate and long lasting impact on local individuals and families. Peter and Ivan are behind Shared Space, the Christian social enterprise that Church from Scratch set up.

It’s one central fund, with all donations channelled through the network of local charities and projects which work in the heart of the town. 

‘It’s people coming together in our town to make a difference,’ explained Peter. ‘We all donate to the fund, and then it spreads out through a whole network of charities to where it’s needed most.’
The fund quickly gained the support of more than 30 Southend-on-Sea organisations, companies and charities (including six Baptist churches), who agreed to serve as ambassadors and promote it through their networks. Donations came in from individuals and organisations, including Southend-on-Sea Borough Council chipping in with £25,000. One hundred days into lockdown, and the fund had raised £65,000.
It has concentrated on four different areas: poverty (food and fuel); PPE; mental health; and domestic abuse.

More than 20 grants totalling £32,000 have already been awarded to support those in most need, with more to be awarded over the coming weeks and months. One of the fund's features is that it is 'very light touch', explains Peter: while appropriate due diligence is applied, grants can be with charities within days of them applying.  
The fund's website and social media pages highlight some of the recipients: 

Domestic and sexual abuse caseloads have soared during lockdown. And even though the restrictions are being lifted, the effects of this will outlast the pandemic.
We’re proud to have given a grant to Sosrc who provide critical support to victims of sexual violence across our town. 26 June
Because of your generosity, we can support HARP Southend (Official) White Heather House - Southend’s women-only homeless accommodation.
The grant has enabled White Heather House to purchase essentials such as toiletries, underwear, socks, bedding, and basic mobile phones, as well as magazines, books, and arts and crafts materials to help make social distancing more endurable. 18 June
During COVID-19 your donations are feeding hungry people in Southend.
The Isaiah Project had delivered 302 emergency food parcels by the end of May thanks to a grant from Southend Emergency Fund. 11 June

A number of responses have been shared too:

‘We’re so grateful for this grant. It’s a particularly challenging time for the women staying with us, so being able to provide these items will make lockdown just that bit easier.’
Lauren, White Heather House co-ordinator.
Special Educational Needs and Disabled families (SEND) had it tough in Southend during lockdown. Realising the need, we stepped in to provide funding for Emergency Survival COVID Packs. ‘Thank you very much for the pack. He loves it already, You guys are amazing.’

The fund also received this praise from local councillor Matt Dent on Facebook. 

Well done to all involved. Although COVID-19 has been a global tragedy, one of the thin silver linings has been the sense of community that it has brought out. It really does give me hope that when this is all over, we'll have a strong foundation on which to build a better world for everyone.

As time moves on and the immediacy of the lockdown recedes, some needs are changing but they certainly haven't gone away. There is now a growing increase in mental health needs and domestic abuse, explains Peter. A looming recession will increase poverty. Fundraising is still happening (‘You might be getting back to normal, but others in Southend are suffering,’ is the fund's current message), but how long the fund continues is uncertain at this point. 

'Are there other things we can host, or incubate? We don't know yet,' Peter said. 

'It was an opportunity to organise Southend in a positive way. There has been a common desire to make a difference, and this was something people could contribute to.’


Baptist Times, 10/07/2020
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