Love Herts Day - Celebrating local charities
On Thursday 19 September 2019 a team from Hertfordshire Community Foundation joined the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, Sarah Beazley, for a very special road trip around Hertfordshire to celebrate the inaugural ‘Love Herts Day’.
With visits to Stevenage, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans, Watford, Bushey and Hatfield, the group visited seven inspiring charities in our county. Love Herts Day aimed to highlight the essential work that local charities are doing to support vulnerable people in Hertfordshire.
Commenting on the day Sarah Beazley High Sheriff of Hertfordshire said; “Love Herts Day was a wonderful way to shine a light on some of the local charities who are behind so much of what is great about our county. We met some really extraordinary people and we want to showcase some of the excellent work going on in the county, particularly around my focus of building stronger communities, interfaith and integration.”
The first stop of the day was Irish Network Stevenage (INS) a charity which supports over 300 older people in the Stevenage area. Their activities include a men’s club, afternoon socials, IT classes, dancing events and an outreach project where volunteers visit those who are housebound. All aimed at supporting vulnerable people and combating loneliness and isolation. INS also run a Christmas Club which encourages individuals to save weekly, to help prepare for Christmas and winter expenses. The Christmas Club has been further enhanced by a bonus scheme, supported by HCF, which rewards those who save regularly.
Commenting on the Christmas Club, Irish Network’s Karen Thorman said; “The true success of the Christmas Club has been where good saving habits are being passed down from grandparent, to parent to grandchildren. We have seen a rapid increase in the number of savers joining the club and we know that because of the club people will be able to enjoy a debt-free festive season with their families.”
The next stop on the trip was to Emmaus Hertfordshire’s Hertford store. Emmaus enables people to move on from homelessness, by providing work and a stable home in a supportive environment. Their second-hand furniture stores in St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Harpenden, Hertford and Tring provide both a way to raise funds and meaningful work for ‘companions’ to help get back on their feet.
The Love Herts Day road trip continued to St Albans’ Centre33, a drop-in centre for socially disadvantaged people. Providing a place to shower and have a hot meal, Centre33 also offers companionship, second-hand clothing, sleeping bags, information and referrals to help vulnerable people in the area.
Hemel Hempstead was the fourth stop where the Love Herts Day team met with DENS at their ‘Paradise’ site which is home to a foodbank and bicycle repair workshop. DENS helps people facing homelessness, poverty and social exclusion to rebuild their lives. They provide crisis food parcels, a hostel and day centre and also run social enterprise activities including a bicycle up-cycle project. The bicycle workshop not only generates an income for the charity but also teaches new skills and develops employability and self-confidence of those involved in the project.
Heading south the team travelled to Watford where they joined a group from Electric Umbrella, a charity that enriches the lives of people with disabilities through music. Over 60 adults with learning disabilities attend their sessions run by professional musicians. By focusing on what people can do, rather than what they can’t, attendees write and perform music, giving people an opportunity to express themselves and come together. Their ethos is that everyone is valued and nothing is impossible.
The penultimate stop for the Love Herts Day road trip was to Red Trust Bushey who are a heart of their community. For the last five years they have worked on developing community based opportunities, starting with a community café. When it emerged that some local people were struggling to afford to buy food Red Trust Bushey expanded to include the provision of a food bank and this is now a key way in which they support the local community. By offering further services such as advice on budgeting, healthy cooking, and signposting to other services in the area they are able to make a real difference to those that they support.
The seventh and final stop for the day was to Hatfield’s Potential Kids, a charity that provides valuable and much needed support to neurodiverse children (including those with autism and ADHD). Neurodiverse children often have limited opportunities to socialise and are often excluded from mainstream schools. By offering a safe, understanding environment the children can learn, socialise and have fun whilst meeting others like themselves. Taking place after school and at the weekend their activities consist of a mixture of fun and learning such as crafts, coding, cycling and football.
Commenting on Love Herts day Helen Gray, Foundation Director for Hertfordshire Community said; “Hertfordshire is very fortunate to have a vibrant and active local voluntary sector. The groups that we visited on Love Hearts Day are amazing examples of the passion, energy and commitment local people have to helping others. Local charities and groups work tirelessly to help local people when they are at their most vulnerable, they are the backbone of our communities. But it is a difficult financial climate for them and many struggle to raise the finances they need to continue to help people.
“HCF is a hub for those who want to support local charities but don’t know where to begin. Thanks to our supporters we are proud to have been able to support all of the charities we visited on Love Herts Day and thousands more, either through our grant funding programmes or our training and development opportunities for the local charitable sector. Without local giving HCF would not be able to provide the grants and support that these organisations desperately need. Love Herts Day was about celebrating the incredible volunteers and staff who work tirelessly in the county to support local need and those that are in the fortunate position to be able to give where they live.
“It was a great privilege to visit so many amazing people who are all working so hard to improve the lives of local people.”