Billie Lawler is the shop manager of a new citizens’ supermarket at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford which aims to help local families stretch their finances just a little further. Here she describes all that the centre has been doing to help this year.
When the first lockdown happened, Billie Lawler and the rest of the team at the Burrell Centre in Thetford quickly realised that local families were going to struggle in so many ways. What with some isolating, some losing their jobs, others furloughed on 80 per cent of their usual income, and other families suddenly having the kids home for six months and missing out on the free school meals – the list just went on and on.
But she says: ‘We managed to secure funding to be able to make up care parcels full of basic provisions and a few treats too and deliver them locally.
‘Staff gave up their time to do this and it felt great to be able to make a positive difference. The centre itself was closed to its usual throng of people accessing the huge variety of classes, activities and businesses all housed under our roof.
‘It all felt very surreal. The team and the volunteers checked in with each other regularly and we all managed to keep each other smiling.’
Then lockdown eased and the centre started to come to life again. Moreover, as Billie continues: ‘During the lockdown we had been approached by Norfolk Community Foundation and Breckland Council about the possibility of the Charles Burrell Centre being the base for East Anglia’s first Citizens’ Supermarket and we jumped at the chance! The Burrell Shop was born!
‘A citizens’ supermarket is for members only and allows members to get great food at heavily discounted prices. It aims to combat food poverty as well as food waste and a whole lot more besides.’
The Burrell Shop, created in collaboration with Norfolk Community Foundation, opened this month in the centre on Staniforth Road. And this new collaborative project has received £40,000 of funding from Breckland Council, part of its wider £1 million scheme by the Council to support the most vulnerable in the Breckland community
Families with children at the schools on the Barnham Cross estate were the first to try the shop which works on a membership basis. After showing proof of address and paying a one off joining fee of £3.50 per household, members can buy fresh, frozen, dried and tinned food, alongside toiletries, nappies and personal care items provided by charities such as Fareshare, HiS Church, the Country Food Trust and local partners. And membership will be widened to the entire Burrell Ward in the new year.
During lockdown 2.0, the centre is once again quiet, but Billie adds: ‘This time we have remained open to the public who want to access the shop as of course this is deemed as essential.
‘We are still taking care parcels out to folks, picking up prescriptions, helping to collect for hampers for the elderly, keeping our community fridge stocked, and pointing people in the right direction to other types of help they may need.
‘As a team we are sorely missing our visitors, tenants, the usual festive get-togethers and events and just hope that we can get back to normal as quickly as possible! ‘
The Burrell Shop has been made possible with support and funding from a range of partners including Breckland Council, local people that care about their community and national funders such as Feeding Britain. Norfolk Community Foundation is now looking to move quickly to establish similar community supermarket hubs in key areas across the county.
‘I’m delighted the project has got off to such a strong start and sincerely hope to see it go from strength to strength and inspire similar ventures across Breckland and the county.’
Sam Chapman-AllenLeader of Breckland Council
Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of Breckland Council, comments: ‘As a council, we are fully committed to supporting everybody across our district and I’m delighted to be working with community organisations like the Charles Burrell Centre to support local residents suffering from financial hardship. We have invested £40,000 to get this innovative scheme up and running, which is part of our wider £1 million support package for vulnerable groups in Breckland. I’m delighted the project has got off to such a strong start and sincerely hope to see it go from strength to strength and inspire similar ventures across Breckland and the county.’
The project is part of a wider programme from Norfolk Community Foundation ‘Surviving the Covid Winter’ appeal, which has been launched to encourage people and businesses in Norfolk to support the continuing work of local charities and voluntary organisations to ensure no one goes hungry this winter.
‘Perhaps you receive a winter fuel allowance that you don’t need and would like to help someone else to stay warm?’
Claire CullensChief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation
‘Food insecurity has shot up due to the economic fallout from Covid-19, as people’s income reduces,’ says Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation. ‘In the first lockdown, 25 per cent of our emergency funding was awarded to food banks and pop-up food distribution networks.
‘We would urge anyone who can afford to give, even a small amount, to get in touch with us,’ says Claire. ‘Perhaps you receive a winter fuel allowance that you don’t need and would like to help someone else to stay warm? Your experience of lockdown may not have been too bad, and you feel that you’d like to support your community. Every pound that we raise will enable charities to provide a vital lifeline to people in Norfolk this winter.’
How to help the NCF Surviving Winter Appeal: visit www.norfolkfoundation.com and click on DONATE NOW; call 01603 623958 to make a card payment; send a cheque to Norfolk Community Foundation, 5th Floor, St James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN; or scan its QR code and make a payment via your smartphone.
If you live in the Burrell Ward and would like to find out about shop membership, please visit between 10am and 12noon on weekdays, plus Monday evenings from 4pm to 6pm, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.