National League Trust: Day of Recognition

By Oliver Osborn

Over the last 20 months football has played a vital part in helping communities cope with the stress of the pandemic. This weekend we celebrate the efforts all our projects, their staff and volunteers made since March 2020.

National League Clubs and their charities have been involved in many local initiatives to help alleviate the impact of lockdown and restrictions. They have continued to deliver activities and support partners through this difficult time. Over the weekend of the 12 to 14 November, the NLT and the League are celebrating their contribution.

As the world learned to cope with COVID 19, our community programmes entered unknown territory. Many chose to continue to reach out and offer local support, exploring new ways of working and helping wherever there was a need. This included grocery and pharmacy delivery, conversations with those isolated at home alone, local newsletters, online coaching sessions and competitions. Each looked at the needs of their community and stepped forward to help.

Once lockdown and restrictions were eased, they were ready to resume work in schools, run exercise sessions outside and adapt their programmes to ensure sessions could take place safely. In particular, school holiday courses took account of those receiving free schools meals and included food to combat holiday hunger, projects offered 1-to-1 support to combat loneliness, and more activity sessions were programmed to meet demand.

You can read more about some of these projects below:

AFC Fylde Community Foundation are running a Loneliness Prevention Project which supports older people who are isolated. This started with one-to-one phone calls and doorstep chats together with food delivery and care packages. It has now developed into a regular weekly group meeting in Kirkham, - the Kirkham Companions - providing activities and creating new friendships.

Altrincham FC Community Sports have been part of the Department for Education’s Holiday Activity Fund programme for children on free school meals since the summer of 2020. They have provided school holiday activities and support to over 800 children in this time and helped combat holiday hunger.

The Saints Community Project at Brackley Town has a long track record of supporting over 80 older and vulnerable people in the community. Volunteers supported members who were isolated at home with food and pharmacy deliveries, home cooked lunches, afternoon teas and an activity library. They worked with other organisations and local business to create a support network called the Brackley Elves to help people through the winter of 2020/21, particularly over Christmas.

Chorley FC Community Foundation’s continued their 'Sporting Memories' groups as an online programme throughout the pandemic, providing much needed support for those suffering from dementia and other memory-loss conditions. They received BBC Radio Lancashire’s Make A Difference Compassion Award and Lancashire FA’s Community Award for their community support work during lockdown.

Gateshead FC Foundation offered one-to one and group calls and online session to support those in isolation, as well as helping with food deliveries. Once outside activities were possible again, they delivered school holiday sessions.

Guiseley Community Foundation worked with local partners to help deliver food and care packages during the initial lockdown. They developed a community newspaper which was hand delivered to local residents. Work developed with online coaching sessions and they also received funding as part of the Holiday Activity Fund from the summer of 2020.

Southend United Community and Educational Trust ran a variety of activities as part of their Tackling Loneliness Together project to support older and vulnerable people throughout the pandemic. They have collaborated with multiple partners, including Southend Borough Council, to develop this work. Staff also volunteered to act as COVID marshals, helping with mass testing of secondary school children and delivering food boxes.

St Albans City Youth in their Saints in the City partnership with St Albans FC have prioritised their Inclusive Football programme, which offers football training and coach development for young people with Special Educational Needs in partnership with Oaklands College. This culminated in a two-day festival in June.

Stockport County Community Trust ran summer holiday provision which provided food for those eligible for free school meals. They also created a free recipe book for families living on a budget. A video about the project will be shown on their large screen during half time of the Club’s televised match against Bromley on Saturday 13 November. (BT Sport 17.20)

More information is available for each of these stories on the National League Trust’s website here.

Susan O’Brien, the NLT’s Project Manager said: “Community programmes at National League clubs provided vital local services during the pandemic, often one uniquely able to work in ways which larger organisations found difficult.

"Thanks to funding from the Premier League and the PFA, National League, National League clubs were able to react and organise quickly, and often worked with other voluntary organisations with no connections to football. We are immensely proud of all their efforts and the real difference they made to many hundreds of people in need.”

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