Eddie the Bear raises smiles delivering 'bare necessities' in Lincolnshire

Saturday, 02 May 2020

The founder of a Lincolnshire charity says she has been 'overwhelmed' by a £2,000 donation by the Masonic charitable foundation, the Freemasons' Charity, which will sustain a vital support service for people in and around the town of Bourne

Nicola Brister, founder and CEO of 'Don’t Lose Hope', said: 'We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Freemasons and the very generous donation of £2,000. It will mean that older and isolated members of our community will continue to feel that they have a lifeline, to be able to talk to someone if necessary, receive emotional support, and hear another human voice, and give peace of mind to their family members, as well as having access to vital food and provisions.

'We live in a very rural area, and many people do not see another person from one day to the next – and this is when the country is operating normally! This donation will enable us to continue our service of delivering food and other essentials to people who do not have access to online shopping and are not supposed to be leaving the house.'

It's not only the deliveries that brighten the day for families, since volunteers making deliveries are accompanied by charity mascot Eddie the Bear, who brings a smile to the faces of everyone he sees. Normally about 85 deliveries are made each week, but that has recently risen to more than 100, and deliveries are being made on three days instead of two.

'Don't Lose Hope' offers a professional counselling service normally working alongside a cafe six days a week in a former Natwest Bank in Bourne. The premises had to close because of lockdown restrictions. Nicola added: 'The pandemic of Covid-19 meant the closure of the café. Counselling was limited to telephone and generating funds ceased. We converted our minibus into a not-for-profit mobile shop, and have linked with our local Foodbank and supermarkets – we go out into our local area and surrounding villages to supply essential provisions. These supplies go to elderly and vulnerable people who are not able to secure an online shop or have no access to the internet.

'This interaction also enables us to be able to identify people who are struggling with loneliness and potential mental health problems.We have set up a helpline which is staffed 40 hours a week by our counselling team. People are able to call in and receive emotional support. Members of our counselling team are calling people for half an hour every week to check in on them and see how they are coping.'

The money has come from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the Freemasons' Charity, and is being used to support deliveries of food and medication to people who not only can't get into the town because of lockdown restrictions, but also have poor internet connections – making them some of the most isolated in the county. 

Don't Lose Hope trustee Derek Bontoft said: 'This has been a wonderful service, and this donation from the Freemasons will mean it can carry on for several more weeks. For many people, arrival of volunteers in the Don't Lose Hope minivan is the only human contact they have during the week, so it's a vital service on so many levels, and we're all grateful the Freemasons have been able to support it.'

The money is part of a £50,000 allocation from the MCF to good causes in the region, of which Lincolnshire is part of, with £13,000 having come to projects in the county. They all support work to get food and supplies to the vulnerable, and to provide PPE for NHS and care home staff.

Derek Bontoft added: 'Don't Lose Hope is a free service for families and individuals receiving certain state benefits, and affordable to all others. This service is delivered by a team of qualified and experienced counsellors, in private fully-equipped counselling rooms.'

Under normal circumstances the café, at 4 North Street in Bourne, is open Monday to Saturday and is run by volunteers. This is a space where anyone can drop in and find someone to talk to, get involved in activities, make friends or just have a slice of cake and a cup of tea.  

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