The Southend Emergency Fund
People on the margins in Southend have been supported throughout lockdown 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, Alan Kirkman, created the Southend Emergency Fund, after recognising the coronavirus outbreak was going to have an immediate and long lasting impact on local individuals and families. 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, who agreed to serve as ambassadors and promote it through their networks (including six Baptist churches). Donations came in from individuals and organisations, including Southend-on-Sea Borough Council which chipped in with £25,000.
It has concentrated on four different areas: poverty (food and fuel); PPE; mental health; and domestic abuse.
One hundred days into lockdown, and the fund had raised £65,000 with more than 20 grants totalling £32,000 awarded to support those in most need. One of the fund's features is that it is “very light touch”, says Peter: while appropriate due diligence is applied, grants can be with charities within days of them applying.?
There have been many messages of warmth and gratitude from recipients, with local councillor Matt Dent taking to Facebook to praise all involved, writing: “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.”
For Peter, the creation of the fund and the response to it have shown a number of things.
When things go badly wrong, people are ready to help.
“A crisis provides new opportunities. What are the new opportunities in this context? Here there has been a common desire to make a difference, and the emergency fund was something people could contribute to.”
Another key point is the building up of relationships over time. Peter and Ivan are behind Shared Space, the Christian social enterprise that Church from Scratch set up. Shared Space is a growing Christian network of shops across?Southend?and beyond, transforming lives through volunteering, training and funding good causes. “There have been several years of Shared Space, which has built trust and developed credibility, and this enabled us to move quickly.”
The relationships look set to build: their work with Shared Space means they were well aware of issues in the town, but the fund has “connected us up, we are far more networked and have more relationships,” says Peter.
He adds: “Everybody is talking about new opportunities. Maybe lockdown has taught us that the box we live in doesn’t actually exist. This creates a freedom for churches to let go of things they have always done which are maybe not working as well; there’s also a freedom to try something new that’s right for their context.”
This story appears in the Autumn 2020 edition of Baptists Together magazine