Meet the GBPA Pub Heroes finalists – Community Services

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Competition open: vote for your favourite now
Competition open: vote for your favourite now

Related tags Awards Pubco + head office Freehouse Community

One positive thing that came out of the coronavirus lockdown was the incredible community spirit people across the nation showed and pubs highlighted how important they are, even when their doors were closed.

The Great British Pub Awards Pub Heroes is an evolution of the traditional Great British Pub Awards, and aims to shine a real spotlight on some of the fantastic achievements of pubs during the corona crisis.

The Community Services category is highlighting the pubs that have worked to help protect and engage with vulnerable and elderly customers, engaging with outside agencies and ensuring people are being looked after.

Entrants made the judges lives particularly difficult this category with a huge number of stellar venues.

Ed Bedington, editor of The Morning Advertiser​​, which organises the awards, said: “Pubs have long been at the heart of their communities, and even in the midst of the lockdown that didn’t change.

“We’ve been hearing from pubs who have been out to visit elderly and vulnerable people, to do their shopping for them, even picking up prescriptions and ensuring people are safe and well. It is fantastic to hear.”

To vote for your favourite, click here​.

The finalists are:

The Buck, Driffield, North Yorkshire

Their story:

Rhian and Dan, operators from the Buck, Driffield organised a group called Helping Covid 19. The group was set up on the 15 March and before lockdown the group had delivered 7,000 leaflets locally with Rhian’s contact number. Rhian and Dan quickly got support from the community and the local council and ended having 150 volunteers supporting them. This was supported with a Facebook group and a website that the local council helped them develop. Both the Facebook group and the website are still active and supporting the community. Everyday there would be six volunteers coordinating all the requests for help with 10 more volunteers going out shopping and more helping with dog walks.

Along with their team Rhian and Dan delivered 6,728 prescriptions to vulnerable people in Driffield, 120 emergency care packages for people who were running low on supplies, more than 600 shopping trips to Tesco and Lidl for people that weren’t able to afford food, 30 dog walks a week and raised a massive £6,600 for local community causes.

They also help provided the NHS and key workers with PPE such as head visors, masks and sanitiser. On top of all of this they arranged for hot meals to be delivered once a day to vulnerable people, completed mental health support over the phone to help people and refer them to the correct services and Rhian contacted six people every night to make sure that they were ok.

Rhian and Dan have been instrumental in the Covid-19 outreach in Driffield. They have managed to bring together a whole community and showed that even when the pubs are closed, they are still there to support their local communities.

Horse & Jockey, Melling, Liverpool

Their story:

In addition to our entry for the feeding the community, we wanted to expand on the additional ways we have helped those who are vulnerable within our community.

Alongside the 15,000 meals we have delivered, the volunteer task force we established in the pandemic also engaged in the following initiatives:

- a twice daily listening ear service where we would call all those in need and chat to keep their mental health and spirits up

- shopping collection and delivery

- buying and delivering daily papers for some who requested it

- prescription collection and distribution

- taking pets to the vet

- taking vulnerable to hospital and doctors’ appointments

- discreetly helping supply elderly with incontinence products (it takes a lot for an older person to call a volunteer and ask for this!)

- helping elderly with online software including video calling loved ones and internet banking

- provided elderly with new mobile phones and chargers after appealing to the community

- gardening for vulnerable

- servicing and fixing wheelchairs

- buying Calpol and thermometer for single mum of four young children

- cooking all meals for a family fighting Covid-19 where their 15-year-old daughter was caring for her parents and siblings

- provided food for families who were bereaved due to loved ones dying alone in hospital with Covid-19

- provided food for social services and housing associations

- local children selling their toys for the community kitchen to donating toys to children in impoverished areas we were delivering to

- we attended the funeral of a lady we were delivering to daily (this absolutely broke the volunteers who had grown so close to her)

- provided meals to front line keyworkers at the local hospital when we discovered their canteen services were not running and they were working round the clock

- got local children to make pictures for a young man recently diagnosed with cancer who we were delivering food to

We are still delivering food and in contact with our vulnerable every day. We have been gifted a patch of land and will work with the local community to grow produce that will be used in meals for those we can I’ll continue to cook for. Even though some of these people have carers, they often live off tins of soup or microwave meals. We believe our vulnerable deserve better.

The Lion Brewery, Ash, Surrey

Their story:

When Mike Armitage took over The Lion Brewery 40 years ago this year, he wanted to make it into a pub for the community and that is exactly what he has done.

He has seen a lot of change over the years but one thing that hasn’t changed is that the first time you come into the Lion Brewery you will be made to feel at home and want to come back again.

Mike has always made sure that the Lion Brewery is a place that you can come and feel safe in and he has helped numerous people over the years, whether it be giving them somewhere to stay for a while so they can sort out full time accommodation or helping people fill out application forms.

The Lion Brewery has played an even more important role in the community during this Covid-19 and lockdown. It has been a hub for elderly residents to come to who didn’t have anyone else or didn’t have family members nearby. We would make sure they were ok and that they had food at home and someone to talk to.

In particular, there was one elderly vulnerable gentleman who was being taken advantage of by his own family and by some local people. They had taken all his money from him and run up thousands of pounds of debt.

So, Mike and his wife Lyndsey have worked with his social worker, mental health worker and community worker to make sure that he is safe. Mike and Lyndsey have worked with his mental health worker to get him back onto his medication, which is now kept at the lion brewery and given to him every day as he suffers with bipolar and memory problems. Lyndsey is now managing his bank accounts and money so that his family cannot take advantage of him and run up no more debt for him.

He went from being £3,500 pounds overdrawn to now being in credit since March. We have worked with his social worker to get him a cleaner who now goes in twice a week to clean his house and check on him.

Lyndsey does food shopping for him every week so we know he has food at home and we also cook him a breakfast every morning so that we know he has eaten at least one meal a day.

With his community worker we also got a KeySafe installed so the cleaner can gain access to clean. We are in the process of also getting him a gardener and also getting fire alarms installed.

We have also helped the elderly to fill out the forms for self-employment furlough as they didn’t know how to use a computer.

We have also offered a takeaway food service and a free delivery service for local residents within the community who weren’t able to get out during lockdown.

The Red Lion, Yarnton, Oxfordshire

Their story:

At the start of the lock down we immediately launched a podcast initiative with a view to both entertaining and keeping all of the community fully informed of what was going on and of help available in the area.

The podcasts were produced weekly and allowed us a media platform to promote to the local villages the growing amount of support that we were building at the pub through our initiatives.

The podcast was broadcast in the manner of a radio show with music and features. It quickly became a central focus for the community and we used this media to launch a food bank and an elderly and vulnerable support network.

It had been identified that other local initiatives at this point were not gaining sufficient traction so we instigated a "Yarnton and Begbroke Help Hub from the Pub".

This was launched some time before the Government scheme and we actively recruited more than 20 volunteers who had logistical and distribution skills to assist us with ensuring this became a worthwhile and successful initiative.

The numbers of volunteers grew quickly as the food bank became even more popular and needed so a larger distribution network was put in place along with a vulnerable and elderly call rota for those feeling lonely or depressed.

The food bank was placed at the front of the pub in March and is still an integral part of our community work and continues to be supported, amazingly, by locals and villagers, even those that do not use the pub.

To help with engagement we promoted a lock down pebble snake, this is an initiative to help engage families in the collection of food.

Local children painted pebbles and brought them along to build the snake when they brought food for the bank, the snake now consists of more than 200 decorated pebbles and will be kept as a piece of art and memorial.

It is now estimated that thousands of food items have been collected and this has been distributed to hundreds of families and elderly locally.

During ‘Clap for Carers’, we encouraged everyone to join in by taking the pub bell out at 8pm on Thursdays and ringing the pub bell which not just encouraged the whole village to join in as we became the focal point but also encouraged even more donations.

As we quickly became the Covid-19 support centre for the entire village, in fact the entire surrounding area, we became the go to point for anyone in distress.

For example, we took in a local lad and gave him a bed, sheltered and fed a young lad who had became homeless during the lock down.

Another villager became distressed during the lockdown as he had recently become widowed, we befriended and invited him round to keep him company, other small things included taking a pint to our vulnerable locals homes for their birthday.

The Fox at Peasemore, Newbury, Berkshire

Their story:

The Fox at Peasemore is located in a very small village in the rural landscape of Berkshire. To say it’s secluded would be an understatement: The nearest shop is four miles away.

We also have a substantial elderly population in the village and surrounding areas. This created a problem during lockdown, as the most vulnerable struggled to access food and basic necessities.

The residents of our village consider the Fox to be a hub of the community, and we believe with that honour comes a certain social responsibility.

That’s why we took it upon ourselves to coordinate safeguarding systems to ensure everyone was being looked in on and had everything they needed. We did this in a number of ways in order to address different challenges and needs in the community:

1) We addressed the problem of local access to resources. We created a village shop, in which we stocked all the necessary supplies. We ensured there was clear signage and very strict regulations in place, ensuring only two customers were allowed in the building at any one time. We implemented a one-way system through the building, and installed Perspex screens between ourselves and the customers to mitigate any risk of infection.

2) We addressed the problem of mobility, ensuring the elderly and shielding had a way of getting the resources to them. We created a shopping checklist of our stock and recruited the extremely active members of our village committee as volunteers to deliver these shopping lists to elderly neighbours and those shielding. The residents could complete these checklists and then send the lists back to us, so we could prepare their orders; the orders were then delivered by volunteers or collected at a safe distance.

3) We tackled the problem of isolation by coordinating volunteers to visit and check in on the most vulnerable in our community. We also sent a letter in the post notifying residents about the shop and our takeaway food services, as we recognised that many elderly folks wouldn’t be on social media and so wouldn’t see the updates on the village group - our primary communication method with most of the village residents. We also included in the letter a call to action for anyone able to check in on their neighbours and make sure they were okay, which created an extended network of connection and support for vulnerable people.

4) Finally, since lockdown restrictions have eased, we have continued to tackle the problem of loneliness. We have created a ‘Coffee Morning’ for residents, with seating set up outside and with social distancing measures in place, to ensure even guests who feel anxious about going out have somewhere safe and comfortable to go for some social interaction. There are many older, single ladies in the community for example, who wouldn’t feel comfortable entering the pub, but who appreciate the conversation and community of a coffee morning organised by people they know and trust.

The Swan, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

Their story:

We don’t consider ourselves ‘pub heroes’; we just wanted to do what we could to help: Within three days of the forced closure we decided to try to help and contacted the council to offer our rooms. Initially we were helping literally getting the homeless off the streets.

We then contacted our local food bank to work to help to supply food and other essentials, plus we provided free coffee, tea, biscuits and course toiletries, we also provided some hot meals in the first couple of weeks.

We were providing accommodation for not only the immediate surrounding area (particularly Trowbridge) but, we were working with Swindon Borough Council, more than 30 miles away. We had regular visits from various council staff who we worked closely with. As time moved on most of our residents were accommodated elsewhere, however there were a number of particularly vulnerable young people the council were unable to find suitable accommodation for and we were the most suitable option for them.

In looking after the welfare of these residents we continued to work with local agencies and in particular, one local independent food market, who provided them with regular food packages as well as the food bank. We also ensured that unwanted items were recycled back to the food bank of use by others. We provided a microwave, fridge and laundry facilities.

As they became long-term residents we were concerned about their diet so we started to offer occasional meals free of charge. We then contacted the local council and worked with them to provide the residents with a daily hot meal. We also contacted other local restaurants who were offering takeaways to ask for their support and they also agreed to provide the occasional meal, ensuring that a varied diet was available.

During this time we also provided accommodation to any key workers that required assistance.

As the landlord, for the safety of our residents (and to a certain extent the property) I decided to move into the property and stayed in one of the rooms, continually for the whole period from 23 March to 20 June. We maintained regular contact with our residents providing them whatever support was needed, from being a listening ear to providing guidance and advice.

We also stayed only to offer takeaway meals for the local community, offering free, contactless delivery in particular for those shielding.

Although, compared to the many amazing contributions made across this great country by so many amazing individuals, organisations, companies and enterprises but, our efforts seemed very insignificant but in our local community we did what we could, we opened our hearts and business to those in need and it was an honour to be able to help.

  • To vote for your winner, click here​.

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