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How we do what we do
We're a charity and membership-based organisation where members have a say and a vote on what we do. We began as a community centre in 2007 and operated for many years from a portacabin.
In 2016, we relocated to a purpose-built community centre (acquired via local authority funding). In 2018 we became a charity, allowing the trustees to apply successfully for National Lottery Community Fund monies to employ a Centre Manager from mid-2019.
We’ve a strong local reputation for non-judgemental inclusivity across our range of activities. We’re perceived (rightly) as autonomous from statutory agencies' control, which is important as 'official' bodies can often be mistrusted by residents because of actual/apparent negative past experiences.
We believe absolutely that people (young, old, in all their diversity and whatever their circumstances) should always be treated as individuals. It's vital that no-one feels that they’re being 'done unto' in a worthy way, but rather that they’re helping to shape their own and their families' futures.
Our board of eight trustees regularly reviews the community’s needs and we respond well to changing circumstances. Other volunteer roles include preparing and serving food and customers in the cafe; baking cakes and savoury items for sale; organising evening activities; gardening in the outside space; undertaking routine maintenance tasks; and delivering the charity’s lifeline support services, including the community larder.
Our volunteers not only help each other, but they help themselves. In other places, volunteers from better-off areas ‘do their bit for the less fortunate’. Here very local working-class people are drawn into volunteering because they’ve received help themselves and want to make their own contribution in return.
Our volunteers are authentic. They’re all (with a couple of exceptions) residents of the area. They’ve very clear views of how things should (and shouldn’t) be done. Their voices are listened to and celebrated. They shape all aspects of the charity’s direction and work.
We’ve a pivotal role at the heart of the local community – offering both direct practical support in terms of advice and signposting, food and the chance to learn new skills and more indirect support with respect to being a warm, friendly and nurturing centre for people struggling with the challenges of their lives – e.g. poverty, isolation, loneliness and low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence.
The unprecedented events of the last three years meant there was a pressing and on-going requirement for us to re-purpose our services to best meet the urgent and specific needs of worried, lonely and isolated people during the pandemic. Spearheaded by the Community Centre Manager, much was achieved on a day-to-day basis to support vulnerable local residents in this most difficult period and we undoubtedly made a real difference to people’s lives.
Through our lifeline support services, we helped local residents in over 5,300 different ways from March 2020 to November 2021 – including preparing and delivering 1,805 no-cost children’s lunches for families on the cusp of eligibility for free school meals; 2,334 subsidised home-delivered lunches for vulnerable adults; 279 prescription collections and deliveries; and 208 rounds of essential shopping.
In the first two months since opening our community larder in November 2022, we’ve had 176 visitors and 404 mouths have been fed.
In May 2022, the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Prince Edward and Sophie) made an unprecedented visit to the centre to say thank you to our volunteers and staff for all their hard work during the coronavirus emergency.
As part of the late Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations, in June 2022 Pan Together was awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service - the highest award a voluntary organisation can receive in the UK and the organisational equivalent of an MBE.
In December 2022, we received a High Sheriff's Award in recognition of 'great and valuable services to the community'.
What makes us special?
We’re exceptional because of our non-judgemental inclusivity and fleetness of foot.
Having identified the growing need in Autumn 2021, our community support/anti-poverty services are (sadly) increasingly essential. No-one should have to choose between food, fuel and children's clothes. We can't change the world but we do make a tangible and direct difference to people's lives. The need is certainly urgent and pressing as these mums said.
"I’ve never asked for help before as I find it extremely embarrassing but I was getting so desperate I actually thought about stealing food to feed my kids".
"This past four days, I've gone through £12 of gas. That’s without electric, bills, food, rent and the ever-growing council tax".
“I just wanted to say thank you for the kind and generous supermarket voucher I received today. Thanks for continuing to support and reassure the least fortunate. I've now been referred to the relevant people to help with my fuel bills to try and get back on top. You amaze me. No questions, no judgement, no pressure: just pure love and support. I can only imagine where I'd be now if I didn’t have you to turn to”.
Recognition of the charity’s work and its depth and breadth are evidenced through the significant number of successful COVID and non-COVID funding applications (often numerous times) since June 2019: Action Hampshire; Arnold Clark Community Fund; Artswork; ASDA Foundation; British Science Association; Charities' Aid Foundation; Daisie Rich Trust; Fidelity International; Garnett Foundation; Good Things Foundation; Hampshire & IoW Community Fund; Healthwatch IW; IoW Council; IoW Foundation; IoW High Sheriff’s Trust; Localgiving; M&S Gifting Grants; National Lottery Community Fund; Neighbourly; Newport & Carisbrooke Community Council; Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner; Quaker Legacy Group; Southern Co-op; Southern Vectis; Sovereign; Tesco Community Grants; TK Maxx & Homesense Foundation; Trant Engineering; and VinciUK Foundation.
Unsolicited donations from a wider range of individuals and businesses further show the respect which is afforded to us locally.
Our legacy and sustainability
We’ve now been operating for 18 years. The organisation's mission is as strong and much-needed as ever. As long as funding is sustained, we’ll be sustainable well into the future so that we can make change a reality.
Our activities are well-known and widely publicised on the Island. Beyond that, our centre is at the heart of Pan and those living here are fully aware of the services we provide. We're here to unite the community and we’re good at including people with mental health conditions, disabled people and lonely, worried, isolated, older and unemployed people. Volunteers understand the many stresses and challenges beneficiaries may face, often having experienced similar difficulties themselves.
We're providing direct and vital support to local families and households in these grim and challenging times when the cost of living crisis is biting so very hard for so many.
We’ve seen a shocking 160% increase in requests for food-related support in the period from July to October 2022 compared to requests from October 2021 to June 2022. Sadly, demand is only going to increase – and demand is probably greatest from working families.
Families like Zoe and Pete (not their real names) who have three little boys.
Zoe has mental health issues on top of other medical conditions and Pete works full-time. He earns £5 too much for them to be eligible for any support or benefits and is too afraid to ask his employer for a reduction in hours in case he loses his job. It really is tough out there.
Thank goodness we’re here to support – but in many ways we shouldn’t have to be.
It’s a damning indictment on society that people have to face desperate crises on a daily basis – but we’ll continue to do what we can to make a difference towards our mission of improving the conditions of life for local residents' futures.
Our innovative approach
We’re providing direct and vital support to local families and households in these grim/challenging times when the cost of living crisis is biting so very hard.
What’s innovative is the sheer scale and depth of what we do with the resources we have available.
320 hours per week by 10 volunteers in the café = 9.1 full-time equivalent staff.
70 hours per week by 16 volunteer trustees/committee members/support service volunteers = 2 full-time equivalent staff.
This volunteer input equates to the work of a minimum of 11.1 full-time equivalent staff each week – an impressive figure given that we employ just 1.7 full-time equivalent staff.
Cost of Living Crisis quotes from families in hardship – 2022
In these most difficult times, as well as the community larder, we're providing referrals to the local foodbank for local residents in hardship and, on occasion, we provide families with crisis supermarket vouchers. Here’s what some of the beneficiaries told us.
1. From a Mum of three primary-aged boys:
“Having kindly and most generously been given help and a voucher towards food in my forever hungry boys’ tummies, it’s been a huge help and relief as my husband’s hours and wage have reduced and made worse by no overtime available to help. And now the cost of living is a massive scare for us as a family but this help took some stress and worry away.
“When the trolley [with donated ingredients asking people to help themselves] is outside the centre, I often check to see what we can collect to help and I’m beyond grateful”.
2. From a Mum with a teenage boy:
“After Christmas, my son’s birthday, coming down with COVID and energy bills rising ridiculously, my family was left completely skint with nothing for 10 days. So knowing there was help from Pan Together was a god send. The £50 voucher I was kindly given filled my cupboards, gas and electric for a week till I got back on my feet. I am honestly so grateful. I don’t know what I would of done without it. Thank you”.
3. From a Mum with a seven-year-old:
“After struggling financially since being moved over to universal credit and also the high increase to bills, I found myself struggling to afford to feed my family. With my son having bad allergies to a lot of foods, it’s not easy for us to access a foodbank. I also struggle massively with social anxiety.
“After being provided with a food voucher for the supermarket, not only did it help massively it took a huge weight off my shoulders. It helped my anxiety as well knowing I was able to get stuff and feel normal doing so.
“As a parent, you should never feel like you can’t afford to feed your family. I will be forever greatful [sic] to have this available to me and I’m so thankful for now and any future need of these vouchers”.
4. From the same Mum:
“It’s so difficult sometimes. Things just keep getting worse and worse and now with the cost of gas and electric rocketing, we just don’t know how we are supposed to do it. Don’t get me wrong. We get by barely. It’s just very hard. I’m pretty good at cooking on a budget. I think that’s why I always survive somehow anyway”.
5. From a lone parent of three:
“I’ve found myself in financial difficulties coping as a single mum and money doesn’t always stretch. My electric and gas have risen due to drying five people’s clothes in a dryer. And kids needing shoes etc. all the time as growing 13, six and two year olds. My dryer just broke a couple of weeks back so had to repair and my dad is only on a pension and unwell himself so can’t support me financially and is good enough to let me live here cheaply.
“So sometimes I just can’t make it through the month. I received a voucher from Pan Together at the beginning of March for Asda. I was very lucky and surprised to receive £50. Which was a massive help to me to get some food for me and my children and a few treats for my son’s sixth birthday which made it special for him. I was extremely grateful”.
6. From a mum of three primary-aged children, all of whom have special educational needs:
“I received an Asda voucher from the community centre recently and it really helped. I am on a very low income and my ex-husband stopped paying child maintenance suddenly and I didn’t know until the day it was due in and it never arrived. I had budgeted in this money and it not going in left us struggling.
“The voucher meant that I could do a food shop to feed my three young children until I was paid. This not only helped financially but also helped to ease the emotional anxiety and stress of worrying how I would get the things we needed for the week”.
7. From a mum with two nursery-aged children:
"Thank you so much for my vouchers [one e-voucher for the food bank for three days of non-perishable food and one crisis supermarket voucher]. They’ve made the world of difference and save me the embarrassment of not being able to provide for my family at difficult times. Thank you SOO much".