Now that life is returning to a ‘new kind of normal’, local housing provider Grand Union Housing Group has been taking stock on the work their Community Investment team has achieved during lockdown with Rush2TheDen, a community space in Rushden. Members of the team helped distribute and put together activity packs for young people across the area allowing The Den staff to expand its clothing swap shop and become a new food bank operation.
Nina Robinson bought the building, a former church, in July 2017 and leads the community project that provides vital family support and activities for children and young people up to the age of 21. The project is run by dedicated DBS checked volunteers and is the base for two charities – Tots & Adults and the Youth Club – and other local community charities and beneficiaries use the building for the benefit of the community.
Nina said: “Our aim is to help young people develop skills, knowledge, self-awareness and confidence in order to make positive and healthy life choices.
“However, while normal activities were temporarily closed due to COVID-19, we diversified, and the two charities compiled fortnightly free activity and craft packs for over 600 local children and young people to assist their mental health and wellbeing. The packs were hand delivered ensuring continuity of support in the community and safety for the recipients.
“The support we received from Karen and Scott at Grand Union with them printing paperwork, collating packs and delivering one of the rounds, was invaluable.”
Karen Nicholson, Grand Union’s Community Investment Manager, said: “We have a longstanding relationship with RUSH 2The DEN, who have supported us on our community litter picks as part of our bulky waste amnesties and their young people have also some benefitted from some CV advice sessions.
“The Den provides a fantastic community space right at the heart of a key Grand Union community and so at this challenging time we wanted to be able to do our bit to help support them. Scott Gamble, our Community Investment Employability and Skills Officer, and I pitched in with printing some of the activity packs, putting packs together and then helped with deliveries to the young people in the area.
“Scott continues to offer ongoing employment support to visitors as they start to return.”
As well as distributing activity packs, the building in Fitzwilliam Street was also utilised as a temporary food bank, collating donations of surplus food from local supermarkets and UK companies donating to the local community, which has proved to be a lifesaver and continues to be in great demand.
Nina added: “In addition to the food donations, we have extended our free ‘Swap Shop’ service, facilitating parents to help other parents by way of an exchange hub for babies, children’s and young people’s clothing (including school uniforms), books, equipment and toys which is open when the food donations are available 9-11am daily.”
As lockdown lifts gradually, the project is looking to restart all their regular activities for young people with outside park games and countryside walks, all socially distanced, as well as the ‘Tots & Adults’ sessions which are scheduled to re-open from 7 September in a Covid-secure environment.