Just a quick post about the Walthamstow Respite Centre that we’ve had up and running over the past few nights.
Our local MP, Stella Creasy, contacted me on Monday evening to see if there was something we could do to help the police and other emergency services while they pulled so many long shifts in sometimes dangerous circumstances. We’d discovered that there are no canteen facilities in any of the Police Stations in Waltham Forest, so thought about offering officers a cuppa and a place to sit for 5 minutes.
Our local Church Hall was free from the usual bookings, so in we went. Stella and I tweeted a few people and put the idea out there – and the thing exploded.
I arrived at 1.30 on Tues afternoon to start setting up. By 2pm I had about 6 people with me, loads of tea bags and a kettle on the go. 15 police officers arrived, on spec, so I tweeted that we could do with some more milk. Someone arrived with cake – which disappeared as soon as it arrived. By 4pm we had around 40 litres of milk, 3 carrier bags of biscuits and a ton or so of cake. I tweeted for a HTC phone charger and got 6 within 5 minutes – I dare not ask for things unless we REALLY need them now!
By 5pm we were cooking jacket potatoes (with cheese and beans, of course), and we’d had to put out another table for the goodies.
On Tuesday night I’d say about 40-50 volunteers popped in, some stayed the duration, others left after leaving contact details “in case numbers got low” – we never got close to needing them!
We served over 40 officers with tea, chatted to those who wanted it, left those too tired to relax for a little bit. After chatting to the Borough Commander we decided we’d run it at least for a few more days.
On Wednesday we had more food arriving every 20 mins or so (home-made biscuits & cake, pasta salad, fishcakes, fruit, a packet of Werthers Originals…) and had a menu on the wall that included toasted sandwiches, paninis and chilli. Again had more people than could actually help – but the police and paramedics who arrived loved the sign of so many of the community standing with them. Some of the ladies are holding out for firemen – the offer is there! I have no idea how many we served, but it was a lot of tired people.
This is about community building. No one is supporting the Police over any concerns they may have, no one is suggesting that everyone has got it right. But we are doing something simple that we can do. Volunteers have become friends and family, Police and civilians have laughed with each other, Politicians have mucked in with tea making and not rhetoric.
We don’t think things like this will fix the wider societal problems, but hey – this is England – a cup of tea solves most problems, no?
(Leave a comment if you want to get involved, or contact me on Twitter – @postordinandy)