A double blow has struck amateur boxing clubs. They have shut to prevent the spread of coronavirus and also cannot host their own shows. Yet in the midst of this crisis many are still serving different communities, albeit now in different ways.
Once under lockdown South Wye Police Boxing Academy began to distribute food. “We run a community café throughout the year where members of the public can purchase a hot lunch for £1 and one of our first concerns was how do we ensure that those regular users of the café are not going to go hungry,” said the club’s Vince McNally. “The café is supported very well by local supermarkets and businesses, who donate food, so we decided to collect that food and redistribute it to the community through a local food bank.”
They also put in place an agreement with the Wye Valley NHS Trust to use their centre as a satellite clinic, to try to alleviate some of the pressure on local health services. “We were contacted by Gavin Phillips at the County Hospital who asked if we could help with providing a service to a specialist clinic which deals with sleep disorders and usually operates within the hospital itself,” McNally explained. “The service is used by up to 2,000 patients, who need to use equipment to treat their sleep conditions, along with 150 ventilation patients. These service users are all in the at-risk group and the service is vital for them to continue their daily lives.
“We have agreed to donate the facility for a minimum of two months and our volunteers here at the club are also ready to lend a hand in any way that will help.
“These are difficult times for all our communities and we at the boxing club see ourselves as an essential community service.
“Although we cannot carry out much of our community work and intervention programmes at the moment, we are determined to keep helping our area in any way we can until normal operations can be resumed.”
Sporting Chance in Newcastle already provided alternative education provision, along with the chance to box, for young people who had problems in mainstream schooling. They too have turned their community café into a base for distributing food parcels to vulnerable people. The club previously worked with the Fare Share and Neighbourly charities to distribute surplus food stock from supermarkets.
“While our boxing and café has shut down, we have the facilities to be able to cook food on site and a minibus to be able to get it out there to those in need,” said Sporting Chance’s director Jamie Cairns. “We would usually serve food on site at minimal cost and we don’t want that food to go to waste, so that’s why we’re taking this out to the community instead.
“This really is absolutely vital if you look at those who are vulnerable. This is not just the elderly and those who need to self-isolate for health reasons, but also for low income families who have been severely affected.
“There are people who have been on zero hours contracts who are losing their jobs, so it’s a really testing time for them and good that we can help out in some small way.”
The Maverick Stars Trust is also offering to support England Boxing member clubs that are seeking to help their communities during this crisis. The charity is particularly keen to help clubs which can support children and young people affected by the school closures who will now have difficulty in receiving a free school meal.
Clubs would need to source a local community partner to provide food or, if they have their own kitchen, can make up food bags themselves. They’d need to evidence the number of young people they’d support (the value would be up to £2.50 a day per child and the support would be up to four weeks). If you think your club can help, please fill in the application form, available online here: https://www.englandboxing.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Community-Food-Hub-form-.pdf and email the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org. This program of support will be open until April 20.
Vulcan ABC in Hull, for instance, has linked up with the Maverick Stars Trust and Fare Share to help families feeling the effect of reduced income due to the pandemic and school closures. Vulcan has expanded its food bank. Requests for help have been exceptionally high and the team of staff and volunteers have been delivering over 100 parcels a day, six days a week across the city. They’ve been wearing protective equipment and leaving the deliveries on doorsteps to meet social distancing guidelines. If any of them, or their households, suffer symptoms they will self-isolate for the required time.
“Everyone at Vulcan is just happy to help. There are so many people in Hull who have lost their jobs and who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Vulcan’s Seb Glazer. “The team wanted to do everything they could to support those in need and this just feels like the right thing to do. The mood is definitely high in the club at the moment.”
Other clubs joining forces with Maverick Stars to deliver food also include Prince Of Wales in Canterbury, Moss Side Fire, Timperley ABC, Jimmy Egan’s, Chadderton, Oldham BC, Collyhurst & Moston, Kirkdale, Derry’s, Old Swan ABC and Elite.
“As soon as the schools started to close a few weeks back, I knew we would have the same issue as we get in the school holidays,” said Maverick Stars Trust founder Charlotte Gilley. “Without the free school meals that some children rely on, there was a good chance kids would be going hungry. Although local councils were looking into a system to support this issue, I was sure it wouldn’t happen straight away.
“Having got the project underway, we are surprised at actually how many people do need support, not just kids, but whole families.”