Working tirelessly over 3 days in the run up to Christmas over 40 volunteers joined forces from ‘Hacker’s Christmas Dinner Appeal’ and ‘Hyndburn’s Festive Feast’ which saw festive meals delivered to over 1,000 people in Hyndburn and surrounding Lancashire areas.
Paul Hacker, founder and organiser of Hackers Christmas Dinner Appeal and owner of The Great British Fish and Chip Bank in Great Harwood, Hyndburn, started the initiative 5 years ago with a £100 budget and didn’t predict the growth of demand and scale the appeal would reach. Hyndburn’s Festive Feast, organised by Stacy Walsh, was established in response to the coronavirus pandemic and aimed to combat loneliness and isolation that many feel over the festive period, alongside food poverty.
Cllr Miles Parkinson OBE, Leader, said:
“When I first heard about the two different Christmas food initiatives, I thought it would be great to combine them and really harness the powers of our community. I set up a meeting between Paul and Stacy and they both instantly agreed combining volunteers and initiatives would mean they could help even more families.
“It was heart-warming to see the huge effort from so many people. The work that Paul, Stacy and hundreds of others are doing makes a real difference. Times are hard and it is really important all of our residents know they do not need to struggle alone.”
Local businesses also stepped up to help with everything from food supplies to T-shirts for volunteers. With the youngest volunteer at just 4 years old, Pauls son Harry, it was truly a whole community effort.
Paul Hacker said:
“It started with a handful of families a few years ago, last year there were 51 and this Christmas 220 received a Christmas dinner, which amounted to over 1,000 meals. I have lived those Christmas days with no food on the table and I have struggled. I wanted to make sure no child and no family went through this, that’s why I initially set up Hackers Christmas Dinner Appeal, but I did not predict how it would grow and the demand there would be.
“I wish there wasn’t a need for it, but whilst there is it is so important, we come together like this. Alongside feeding families in Hyndburn I hope this message spreads and others develop a similar initiative in their own areas too.
“Through combining forces with Stacy, this year’s scale of the initiative was made possible. Stacy and all the volunteers got us organised and the insight provided meant we could be more efficient and help even more families. I am still in awe of just how much we managed to do, Stacy did tell me off for not getting an early night’s sleep the day before all our deliveries, I know to listen in future! It was worth every second of exhaustion and I hope it brought joy to people during such a hard time.
“Thank you to every business, organisation and volunteer who helped me make this year’s appeal such a huge success. For example, our website and Just Giving page wouldn’t have been possible without the help from Steven Wild who set it all up and helped on the day when we had printer problems! Freemasons from Hyndburn and surrounding areas also got involved, it was wonderful to see so many people joining together.”
Stacy Walsh, added:
“The combining of our two initiatives was what made this such a great success. Myself, alongside over 40 other volunteers, were really keen to do something to make sure Christmas Day felt special for those who are struggling. It was not just about food poverty, but about letting people know they are not alone and there is a wide community who care. Working together is how we will come out the other side of this pandemic, that is why we set up Hyndburn’s Festive Feast.
We had many very kind donations from people in our community including cash, food and ready meals. Local business Studio Retail donated selection boxes, which was organised via #AmazingAccrington, Burnley Leisure donated £1,500, Local Morrison’s store gave us money to spend in store and Paddy Short donated puddings too.
Ex-mayor Paul Barton even helped deliver some parcels in his old ward. Honestly, there are too many people, businesses and organisations to list but I want to make sure everyone knows that they made a huge difference, no matter how big or small their donation or volunteering time was, thank you.”
Cllr Miles Parkinson OBE added:
“It is important to us as a local authority to make sure support is easy to access and this is a brilliant example of how people working together can really benefit our community.
“Our Hyndburn Hub was set up right at the start of the pandemic and acts as an umbrella for over 40 organisations and community groups. They can help with everything from delivering essential supplies if you need to self-isolate or are shielding, to signposting to food banks, mental health services and other support. I would like to remind everyone not to hesitate to reach out if you need help, our community is strong, and our network of support is available to everyone.”
To donate to the Hyndburn Hub visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hyndburnhub
If you need support the Hyndburn Hub can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org 01254 388 111