The Watford Chamber of Conscience is driving the movement that puts the business and social communities together for their mutual benefit. It is a philosophy which strives to connect Conscience with Commerce and the local Community, giving charities the opportunity to connect with local Businesses.
Foodbank Friday Networking
Watford Chamber of Conscience organised a Foodbank Friday event as part of their monthly networking programme. The beneficiary is Borehamwood Foodbank, part of a nationwide network, providing emergency food and support to local people in crisis. In association with Metro Bank and Sobell Rhodes, the event enabled people to bring along non-perishable food for families and individuals who would otherwise go hungry. Said Saffron Johnson, the Chamber's Business Development Manager, "It was lovely, seeing business people arrive with their shopping for a morning of networking!"
Sadly, Foodbanks are a vital part of society, helping prevent crime, housing loss, family breakdown and mental health problems. Every day people in the UK go hungry for different reasons such as redundancy or receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. A simple box of nutritionally balanced food makes a big difference.
What we achieved
A huge amount of food was collected at the event - from pasta and tins of soup to breakfast cereals, biscuits and snacks. Foodbank Trustee, Murray Devine: "We are so grateful for the generosity of people donating food through the Chamber of Conscience. Such donations mean we continue to provide at least 3 days' worth of healthy, balanced meals for people in very great need."
Future Foodbank Projects
"We're always seeking ways of making sure people don't come back!", says Murray. One of the conditions of allowing people to use the Foodbank is getting help with their present situation in order to avoid dependency on food parcels. There is always someone from the Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) on hand to give advice, and volunteers at the Foodbank recommend agencies to help solve longer-term problems.
"As well as the generosity of people and organisations donating food, we value the professional advice and guidance that professionals can offer. For example, avoiding debt and budgeting are key ways of helping people move on with their lives. Equally important are cooking skills - creating nourishing meals will always be better than spending money on takeaways."
Learn more about The Foodbank https://borehamwood.foodbank.org.uk/about/
The Garden Challenge
Overgrown gardens on the Meriden Estate are getting a makeover from a volunteer group of 'office gardeners'. Says Amanda Grimston, Ward Councillor: "Some of the gardens are in need of a tidy up but would be a bit costly to fix. Through the Watford Chamber of Conscience, however, we've got our own wonderful gardening team. They give us the momentum we need to keep the gardens looking good and it's having such a wonderful effect on the residents."
A couple of years ago, Watford Community Housing got in touch with Amanda about a vulnerable resident in need of help with their garden. "I immediately turned to Chris Luff and the Watford Chamber of Commerce for help and as usual, they came to the rescue."
Both Chris and Amanda, together with a local gardening company, got stuck in and transformed the garden into a wonderful, peaceful space. "The resident's joy and gratitude really touched our hearts," said Amanda. "It also encouraged me to turn this into an ongoing project - a hardy annual if you like!" Had an idea...
Through the Chamber of Conscience, TKMaxx came on board with a team of 50 middle managers all keen to meet Amanda's Garden Challenge.
What we achieved
Amanda seeks out the vulnerable or elderly whose gardens are in need of TLC and assembles her team. In just over 4 hours, their hard work turns the wilderness of, say 10 gardens, into pleasant nurturing environments for the residents. And this is just the start because then the residents go out of their way to maintain their gardens wherever possible. In some cases, the housing association has taken up the task of ongoing maintenance.
Future Garden Challenges
Amanda is keep to extend her Garden Challenge to all over the Watford area and encourage as many businesses as possible to participate. "When you see the effect that the Garden Challenge has on both the residents and the volunteers, you begin to realise that it's not just the gardens that get transformed."
IT Support for Charity, Playskill
Chamber member, SR Cloud Solutions, is keeping disabled children's charity, Playskill, secure and on top of their IT management. This was never going to be a one-off exercise for SR. They want to offer ongoing IT support to a local charity, giving tangible help where it's really needed.
The chamber put SR's MD, Jamie Ritchie in touch with Playskill, a charity that helps children with special physical needs. the Playskill specialist team of Physio, Occupational and Speech & Language Therapists, work at developing the children’s motor and communication skills. The charity isn't government funded and depends upon sponsorship, grants (eg the National Lottery) and volunteers for its very existence.
"Playskill is an incredible charity," says Jamie. "They're very skilled at helping children improve the quality of their physical life and also really caring and supportive of parents. It's an absolute privilege to help them with their IT."
What we achieved
The fact that SR's office are close to Playskill in Watford means they really are on hand to help the charity. They started with an audit which led to various tasks for SR, making Playskill's whole infrastructure more secure and efficient. File sharing is also faster and more efficient for the staff.
Future IT support
Jamie and his team continue to help Playskill with its IT, dealing with tasks as they arise. They are also fulfilling their wish to help the charity get the most out of its IT. For example, the network attached storage (NAS) device has 'built-in redundancy' so if one bit fails, the system continues to function. Going forward, SR Cloud Systems wants to help Playskill budget for important IT upgrades and development so Jamie and his team will also help with fund raising whenever they can.
Learn more about Playskill https://playskill.org
Supporting Our NHS – COVID19
“The virus hit Watford, like everywhere else, as a bolt from the blue", says Chris Luff, CEO of Watford Chamber of Commerce, We were not surprised by the amazing response from our members when asked if they could help , we were however overwhelmed by the energy and generosity in donating money, time, materials and produce regardless of their own obvious difficult agenda. Connecting with Robert Voss HM Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire our Chamber of Conscience `Network of Goodwill ` we were able to provide quick and effective support, primarily to local hospitals & hospices as the virus spread and lockdown took hold”.
What we achieved
Saffron Johnson, the Chamber’s Operations Director, took to Webex, zoom, Teams – 8 x 8, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp and drew together a lists of hospital wants, needs and, simple crucial basics such as bottled water, for hard pressed NHS staff, as they battled with the virus and fought against stress, fatigue and all too often, heartbreak. Joining the fight came ex Royal Marine Matt Johnson, bringing both an entirely coincidental surname and a military eye to crisis management. The results are easy to see, but difficult to quantify; what price the opportunity for an ICU nurse to relax in an executive suite at Watford Football Club or hard pressed support staff greeted by a deliciously prepared end of shift meal, or beginning of shift pastry provided and paid for by our amazing Chamber members.
In total, we managed to deliver 22 000 pastries, cakes and donuts to our amazing NHS staff at Watford.
Spurred on by the outpouring of practical help from Watford’s businesses and people, Chris and Aga teamed up to create and install an enormous banner for the hospital, reminding Watford’s NHS staff and multitude of keyworkers that everyone in Watford admires and supports them, every hour of the day, just as they do every Thursday evening.
Says Chris “I called several members explained the concept and literally within hours we had raised the necessary funds to install a permanent structure to display our appreciation for all the Key workers and NHS teams that are serving our community.
The support and generosity from our local business community has been quite simply remarkable.