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Birchwood High School boys join Operation CommUNITY team packing Christmas hampers for vulnerable people




Christmas hampers with festive goodies and essentials will be on their way to the area's most vulnerable people – and students from a school which donated many of the items joined a packing team.

Five Duke of Edinburgh's bronze award boys from Birchwood High School in Parsonage Lane, Bishop's Stortford, took time out from their weekends off to don school uniform and join a socially distanced packing session for the Operation CommUNITY lifeline scheme.

The initiative came from Faye Cornell, whose son Joseph Haslam attends Birchwood. Faye rallied the school's students and pupils at Richard Whittington Primary in Thornbera Gardens, Bishop's Stortford, to donate food and other essentials for the schemem which is based at the New Apton Centre, Apton Road – and there was a great response.

The New Apton Centre, Apton Road, Bishop’s Stortford.Volunteers packing Xmas hamper bags for distribution to local families and the elderly. Pupils from Birchwood (all DofE award students) taking part. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (43423668)
The New Apton Centre, Apton Road, Bishop’s Stortford.Volunteers packing Xmas hamper bags for distribution to local families and the elderly. Pupils from Birchwood (all DofE award students) taking part. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (43423668)

And last Saturday (Dec 5), Faye and the students joined in a 90-minute packing event at the centre involving 20 people, with 20 hampers for families and 100 for the elderly being packed.

"We brought three car-loads of donations from Birchwood and things were sorted into different items," said Faye. The donated items were supplemented by Christmas puddings and chocolate coins for family hampers and there were also mince pies donated by local bakers Dorrington's.

Faye said the Year 10 students – Joseph, Ollie Fach, Jack Eley, EJ Blackburn and Seb Clark – enjoyed being involved and being able to do something together.

The New Apton Centre, Apton Road, Bishop's Stortford.Volunteers packing Xmas hamper bags for distribution to local families and the elderly. Pupils from Birchwood (all DofE award students) taking part.Lisa Rodmell and Faye Cornell (Organised Birchwood donations) with just some of the bags put together. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (43423674)
The New Apton Centre, Apton Road, Bishop's Stortford.Volunteers packing Xmas hamper bags for distribution to local families and the elderly. Pupils from Birchwood (all DofE award students) taking part.Lisa Rodmell and Faye Cornell (Organised Birchwood donations) with just some of the bags put together. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (43423674)

"A lot of people have collaborated in this and the amount donated was amazing," said Faye.

Lisa Rodmell, of Bishop's Wellbeing and lead volunteer for Operation CommUNITY, paid tribute to the schools for the donations.

She said: "It takes times like Saturday, seeing the sea of donations from Birchwood and Richard Whittington and the willingness of local volunteers to sort and organise into individual wellbeing packages for our elderly and vulnerable people, that I realise the impact of what we're providing for people less fortunate. It made me feel quite emotional.

"Operation CommUNITY is achieving great things in our community. We're delivering valued, quality services and I'm proud to be part of such a great team.

"Our community has a heart and we care about the people living in it – that really hit home to me today and it's heart-warming."

A Christmas card designed by the scheme's youngest volunteer, nine-year-old Yasmin – 120 of which are being printed for free by Cambridge Printing Solutions – were included in the hampers.

Lisa thanked the team of volunteers that helped with the organisation and for the packing of Christmas wellbeing packages and also Dorrington's for the mince pies, Cambridge Printing Solutions and Home Instead Senior Care East Herts and Uttlesford for activity packs and presents from their Santa for a Senior campaign.

Donations left over are being passed on to Bishop's Stortford Food Bank

Operation CommUNITY was launched in March by Age Concern Bishop's Stortford manager Zara Skidmore and NHS social prescriber Simon Marlow, working with local partners, as an emergency response to Covid-19.

Anyone living in Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and the Hadhams (the area covered by the Stort Valley Primary Care Network) who needs support is asked to contact the general inquiries team on 01279 504748 between 9am and 1pm Mondays to Fridays. A befriending phone line and welfare phone line are open from 8am to 8pm every day of the week.



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