Mike D’Souza & Jill Preston
The Tuesday Club has now become established as a weekly Food Bank and social support event for needy Kingstonians. It started over six years ago as a collaboration between CREst and One Norbiton. That are two centrally funded community groups who share a joint aim of improving the quality of life in Norbiton Ward, where social disadvantage has been, for many years, significantly greater than in the rest of Kingston.
On Tuesday 11th of April 2017 CREst Chair, Jill Preston, decided to replace an under-attended CREst mental Health group with a volunteer-run Club for people with a wide range of needs particularly street drinkers, who RBK had recently banned from the centre of Kingston. Jill’s new club provided a range of informal personal services including advice and social support, music, and games such as Scrabble and Pool. Then building on an initiative by NHS Wellbeing and a local resident, Angel Levick, the club also started cooking hot meals for attendees together with distributing clothing and grocery items. The latter were initially donations from the customers of Sainsbury’s Sury Basin. One Norbiton added their free allotment of RBK Hall time to CREst’s which enable the project to go forward without any rental costs.
By the end of 2017, the Club had attracted 475 attendances and in 2018 attendances rose to 2093. In these early days, we were helping 125 separate individuals of whom 44 (35%) had serious problems such as addictive illness and homelessness. We wrote our first report on our activities in March 2018. From the onset we were dependant on voluntary helpers. (See below for the some of the first wave of helpers)
The total attendance in 2019 rose to 2,112 averaging over 40 per week. On the 17th of March 2020attendance was 44, then in the following week came the Covid lock down.
The Covid pandemic was never officially declared over but Homelessness disappeared over night as the Council and Government found bed and breakfast for all who needed it. See our second report. We also worked with Matt Hatton at KCAH at the start of the pandemic to assist with offering refreshments and information to those who were being moved elsewhere. Some refused to leave so we supplied tents, sleeping bags etc when possible. We also became a recognised agency to distribute Foodbank Vouchers.
The total attending in 2020 before lockdown was 488. Data gathering then became difficult. However, with characteristic courage, Jill chose not to close the Club entirely but to switch its activities to providing Food bank handouts within the government’s safety requirements. Also, she opened two extra days on Thursdays and Saturdays and organised regular home delivery of food parcels to those trapped indoors with new volunteers coming to help from Sunflower Street RA led by Suzanne Seyghal Buckingham and her late brother, Jonathan. January 2021 328 parcels were being delivered weekly and included 87 parcels for children.
In April 2021 regular fortnightly attendance of 35 restarted, but without the face-to-face social games and other activities. By June 2021 attendance restarted to be weekly and reached 52 on 15th June. Average weekly attendances for the rest of 2021, ranged from 22 to 80.
In 2022 the weekly attendance began to rise from 70 in February to 130 in December. And in this year, 2023, the average in August reached 146. This year, RBKares, a new Charity started by Dr Kate Kenyon has on the first Tuesday of each month added lots of additional services to benefit our attendees. See below for a list of the services that are now being provided:
Haircutting Hot food Fresh Fruit Groceries Clothing Energy Vouchers First Aid Medical Advice Vaccination Podiatry Benefits advice SIM cards Internet access Mobile phone charging Samaritans Mental Healthcare and limited personal support Addiction services Homelessness services RBK Council Officer services RBK Councillor advice.
All of which is given on a first name basis within a supportive community atmosphere.
Throughout our journey so far well over 1800 people have attended. We have fed locals with no external funding other than a helpful initial donation from Countryside at the start of lockdown.
We have also arranged for several of our volunteers to be given Food Hygiene training and several of our volunteers have used us as a stepping-stone towards paid employment or training thanks to our references.
However, it is now resulting in a considerable increase in attendance. On these First Tuesdays it is already reaching as high as 236. In the last quarter the average attendance on a first Tuesday has been 198 compared with 125 on a routine Tuesday (a 61% increase). This seems partly due to our attracting more and more new customers; however, it is clear we will need to do more analysis of our customers; in case the Club becomes unsustainable. There is limited time and energy to do this and obviously our data must be kept confidential.
So far, we know that we see all ages from octogenarians to babies. Their vulerability is revealed by the fact that eight have died prematurely since we started (six men and two women) They are now amazingly cosmopolitan with attendees coming from 50 different countries; Afghanistan Albania Algeria Benin Botswana Bulgaria China Ecuador Eritrea Finland Germany Ghana Holland India IranIraq Italy Japan Kenya Kurd Latvia Liberia Lithuania Malawi Morocco Nepal Nigeria Pakistan Poland Romania Russia S. Africa S. Korea Somalia Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Syria Tanzania Thailand Togo Trinidad/Tobago Turkey Uganda UK Ukraine West Indies Zimbabwe
Past studies showed that the vast majority had KT post codes, but a few do sometimes travel from as far as Croydon to attend.
Most are appreciative and patient however some have addictions and have behavioural problems. These are often the neediest and most vulnerable, who the service was originally designed to care for.
Now we are using Jill’s excellent local knowledge to diagnose the severity of customer need. There are undoubtedly some attenders who are not in as much difficulty as they claim but the vast majority are. The nation-wide growth in food banks is distressing and the fact that in a wealthy area like Kingston services like the Tuesday Club are clearly required is a particular worry.
Managing the food handouts
Jill has introduced a queuing ticket system on a first come first served basis. The occasional disrupters are given warnings and temporary exclusions. Fair distribution of food is achieved with cloakroom tickets issued based on the number in any household. People can also “buy” a carrier bag with one of these. Collecting for others is not encouraged except for the housebound.
Our sources of food are mainly donations from City Harvest and the customers of Sainsbury’s Sury Basin. This food is collected three times a week by Geraldine Burgess who also helps with the weekly shopping and cooking.
We also get direct donations from local citizens and buy items we are short of. Among our cooks Ed Naylor (Former Kingston Mayor) deserves special mention as he has been with us from the start. In addition, Mary Graham is providing a cooked dish every week. We have a series of Freezers and steel cabinets to store food to replace the Hub pantry in the basement of the soon to be demolished Madingley tower.
Our volunteers are indispensable. Regularly 25 to 30 help out on Tuesdays Interestingly, occasional customers volunteer and after filling in Jill’s entry form can become regular helpers. They are ably organised by Trudy Barker and become members of our Tuesday group WhatsApp. We hope to institute regular face to face Volunteer meetings in the Hub as the sustainability of the Tuesday Club is a major challenge to CREst and One Norbiton.
Observers /Volunteers from both Statutory and Charitable Groups
We have begun attracting observers and helpers from many other local groups most are listed here; Angels of the Hood CCG KBI Child Services AfC Countryside Domestic Abuse GP Practice Mobilize Hey Girls Health Watch Kingston adult Ed KCAH Mind Moving-On-Together KVA Super-Highways NHS Vacc NHS recoveryRBK CEO RBK Benefits Spear Staywell The Bridge RBK Cllrs RBKares Refugee Action Shared Enterprise SamaritansSave the World Wellbeing Kingston Cycling Campaign (Dr Bike) Dentaid New Era Axis Hestia Opticians Podiatry Ideal NHS anti-smoking
Some of the Volunteers in Piper Hall on 18/10 2022
We Have had a lot of support from the Royal Borough, both Officers and Councillors. RBK’s CEO, Sarah Ireland, has attended as have all our Councillors. Considering the problems that our most disadvantaged clients must cope with, we have had less difficulties than we expected thanks to Jill’s tireless organization.
However, we were upset that our transfer from Piper Hall to QMH took place with very little notice or prior consultation about our needs, and we now function with vastly reduced storage. We do worry also that now that there is one less hall there is nowhere for our lengthening queue to have shelter in the winter.
One Cambridge Gardens owner-occupier did complain about our customers sitting and smoking on her doorstep. This seems to have been successfully handled by a simple request to the clients not to do this.
- There is an obvious need for such clubs and this need may be growing.
- A confidential, personal (First name) approach works best.
- WhatsApp groups are useful for organising volunteers but local organisers such as Jill and Kate Kenyon are vital.
- It is crucial that our voluntary groups work together without Kudos-hunting or trying to take over.
- The workload of coping with increasing numbers has meant that it has been impossible to analyse every individual but it would be valuable for planning to know more about attendees and volunteers. .
- To avoid risk of embarrassment, is essential that all personal data is kept strictly confidential.It is important that Helpers are non-judgemental.
- If Statutory and Voluntary services do work harmoniously, we can effectively ameliorate the needs of the most disadvantaged in our community.This club approach enables those in need to get their statutory dues in a timely way as well as getting friendly and informal community support.