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Power NI support gets to the root of local communities

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Root Soup, a catering initiative run by charity, L’Arche Belfast, is one of 43 community groups and charities who have been supported by Power NI’s Community Response Fund set up in the wake of Covid-19.

East Belfast mum of two Gwyneth Compston, also Energy Services Manager for Power NI, put forward L’Arche and Root Soup as a worthy recipient of cash support.

Gwyneth’s church, Newtownbreda Presbyterian, helps L’Arche by giving over their kitchen and each Thursday alongside volunteers from the church and the local community, Root Soup chefs preparing and delivering 240 home-cooked meals to older higher-risk people in South-East Belfast area each week. Root Soup’s Power NI grant is helping to purchase ingredients to create a range of ready-made and nutritional meals and small food packs.

Twenty-nine of the groups supported by Power NI, including Root Soup, were proposed by Power NI staff located at company sites in Omagh, Belfast and Antrim and Gwyneth Compston alongside colleagues Steffi Lewis and Gemma-Louise Bond have been co-ordinating and implementing the company’s new Community Response Fund.

Gwyneth explains, ‘Staff have always been an integral part of our community support programmes and through our employee initiative, Helping Hands, team members have nominated many different groups for Power NI grants. With the impact of Covid-19 we invited staff to suggest projects in their local areas that they either volunteered with or knew about and felt deserved additional support in these current unusual and challenging times.

‘I put forward L’Arche as it’s a fantastic organisation which brings together people with learning disabilities and those without, whilst recognising and celebrating everyone’s talents and achievements. The Root Soup kitchen project is culinary training for adults but since lockdown has totally diversified creating food parcels for local people in need.’

As well as staff nominated groups and projects Power NI targeted 14 charities and organisations that they had already partnered with, seeking to provide on the ground support where it was most needed. Support ranged from helping groups manufacture scrubs bags and PPE visors for frontline workers to meals and food parcels as well as activity packs for those living with dementia and essential living packs for families. The community scheme also funded volunteer laptops, counselling and chat services.

Stephen McCully, managing director of Power NI said, ‘We’re thrilled to provide a financial boost to such a wide range of initiatives across Northern Ireland specifically in respect of community responses to the coronavirus crisis. It’s wonderful to give both our partner groups and staff nominated projects a deserving helping hand.’

Partner groups helped by Power NI’s Community Response Fund include Age NI, NOW Group, Macmillan, Advice NI, USEL, foodbanks in Belfast, Antrim and Omagh, Action Mental Health and the Welcome Organisation.

The fund has enabled all 43 groups to provide a total of 2250 PPE visors, masks and scrub bags, 50 litres of hand sanitiser and 2550 meals, food parcels and grocery vouchers. Over 100 people have been supported by check and chat volunteers as well as 250 family and older people packs, laptops and tablets and high vis vests.

Thanking Power NI, Diane Hill from the NOW Group said, ‘We are very grateful to Power NI for their generous donation towards the cost of the soup we’ve been providing for the North & West Belfast Soup Kitchen via our Loaf Catering social enterprise. It’s enabled us to provide hundreds of meals to people who might otherwise have gone without.’

Action Mental Health’s David Babington said, ‘It’s been a tremendously difficult period for many people and support like this will help ensure we are able to respond to needs across the community.’

Adding her thanks, Jan Forrest from Macmillan Cancer Support said, ‘Power NI’s kind donation will help to fund cancer information nurse specialists on our Macmillan Support Line which has seen an increase in calls from cancer patients concerned about coronavirus.’

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