A Christmas Partnership!

Instead of playing Santa to each other, this year everyone at The Garage in Norwich has teamed up with the NR2 Foodbank to spread some Christmas cheer.

Staff and board members at the performing arts centre have donated £700 to the foodbank, which is distributing boxes to 70 families in need throughout the NR2 area. The £700 will help provide Langleys toy vouchers for more than 120 children.

Katie Snell, The Garage’s general manager, said: “In the run up to Christmas and with the increase in toy adverts on television, I was really struck by how difficult this year has been and how much harder Christmas will be than usual for most. I considered that, as we wouldn’t be able to get together as a staff team this Christmas for our usual Secret Santa and party, we could do something different and help families less fortunate.

“I can’t believe how much money the team has managed to raise. It was really important to us to do the most for the local community and so Langleys was top of our list as the go-to toyshop. We’ve also included some class vouchers in the boxes. If people want to stay on after their first term, we’ll work with the NR2 Foodbank and look to support subsequent terms.”

As well as the toy vouchers, the boxes also include Aldi vouchers, Christmas and seasonal sweet treats and a Jack Monroe cookbook.

The Septagon Charity contributed £1,000, the Norwich Opportunity Area fund gave £250 for the cookbooks and £750 towards the Langleys vouchers, Dozen Bakery donated bread and money. Members of the public and other businesses also donated cash and goods.

The NR2 Foodbank was set up two weeks after the first lockdown in March by registered charity NR2 Community Skills Share, which runs it in partnership with the Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue and the local Covid community response group.

Emma Corlett, Norfolk county councillor for Town Close, is NR2 Community Skills Share’s chair of trustees. She said they needed to act quickly due to people being furloughed or their hours cut, the long delay in support for the self-employed and a five-week wait for Universal Credit. Some have just managed through the summer, but winter is putting more families under pressure.

She said: “The response from the community, our donors and our volunteers has been amazing. A lot of people find it hard and embarrassing having to ask for help. It’s been an eye-opener how long they leave it before they do. We’ve tried to make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to access that help and that there’s no stigma so they can retain their dignity.

“The ability to access free classes at The Garage for a term is a real positive too. So often when people are struggling, access to the arts is the first thing that gets lopped. For children living in households where there’s a lot of stress and financial worry, being able to access the arts is crucial to mental health and emotional wellbeing.”

Jackie Bush, a trustee of The Garage, is one of the coordinators at the NR2 Foodbank, dealing with new referrals and admin. She said the Covid-19 pandemic had shone a light on not only those already struggling, but the many people who had been tipped over the edge.

“The families receiving these boxes have been bowled over by everybody’s generosity and they will make a big difference this Christmas. We’re a foodbank but we’re also about sustaining that support through summer holiday projects, the free online activity packs going out with the boxes… We look at the broader needs of the families coming to us and try to signpost them to other agencies.”

Need help? You can self-refer to the NR2 Foodbank by emailing nr2foodbank@gmail.com or by calling the self-referral telephone number 07752 063897 and leaving a voicemail.

The Garage is committed to helping young people change their lives through the arts.

Applications are now open for its free Introduction to the Creative Industries programme for 18-25-year-olds, which will explore different roles in the sector. Training will include industry expert talks and professional mentoring. It has also launched the Chair’s Bursary fund, in honour of departing chair of trustees Maggie Wheeler. The fundraising campaign which will help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and challenging circumstances take part in dance, music or theatre classes and courses at either The Garage in Norwich or The Workshop in King’s Lynn.

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