PATCH Charity – An AGM with a difference!

First published Friday, September 12, 2014

Wednesday 10th September saw the Trustees of PATCH Charity hold their first formal public AGM. And what a superb evening it was!

The venue, the Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Co., in Haverfordwest was an inspired choice. Not only does the prospect of chocolate guarantee a good turn out, but since opening only 4 months ago, the business has been supporting PATCH through sales of a specially formulated chocolate bar, the flavours chosen through a Radio Pembrokeshire public campaign. More on that later!

The evening provided an opportunity for Tracy Olin, PATCH Co-ordinator and Dennis O’Connor, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, to say some very important “thank you” messages, as well as highlight the work of the charity, calling on a number of the volunteers to help illustrate the projects currently operating. It was also an opportunity to explain how the charity has supported those who volunteer with them, allowing individuals to overcome personal challenges, grow in confidence and ability and in more than one instance go on to secure employment having previously lacked the ability to do so.

The Port of Milford Haven, having nominated PATCH Charity as their Charity of the Year, has been instrumental in supporting the growth of the charity over the last 12 months or so. They have assisted with the provision of a new headquarters base (twice – PATCH rapidly outgrew the first one!), supported a range of new initiatives, and in addition to other means of financial support, provided a high level of in-kind donations from across the staff teams working for the Port. Alec Don, Chief Executive of the Port of Milford Haven spoke about his pleasure in supporting the work of PATCH, and his pride in the staff of the Port for their continual efforts to deliver above and beyond the call of duty in the ways they have chosen to help.

Kevin Hire, Sales Director for Radio Pembrokeshire, for whom PATCH is also Charity of the Year, spoke of his delight at the ways in which Radio Pembrokeshire have been able to support the team as well. From co-ordinating the campaign with the Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Co to determine and launch a Pembrokeshire flavoured chocolate bar, sales of which raise funds for PATCH, to the ongoing support for the Christmas Toy Appeal, it is clear that PATCH is held firmly in the hearts of the Radio Pembrokeshire team as a cause that makes a significant difference to the communities of the county.

Outlining the various projects and initiatives PATCH is currently delivering were a number of the volunteers, and PATCH’s only other paid employee, Carol Clayton. Carol, as the Basics Bank Supervisor, has recently been employed to ensure that the ever growing demand for Food Parcels, Household Basics and Clothing can be met and co-ordinated in such a way as to deliver help to those who are in genuine need. With demands on the service increasing, Carol and her team work hard to ensure that the provision is not abused, whilst also ensuring that help is offered to those in need, along with signposting to other agencies and organisations who can provide further support whether it is with resolving issues with benefits claims, or providing access to housing and family support networks.

The Food Co-op initiative was outlined by David. A comparatively new initiative for PATCH, it allows people to place an order for a basket of either fruit, vegetables, stir fry ingredients or salad one week to be collected the following week from the Milford Haven base. At just £3 for each basket, there is a good selection of fresh produce within them, it provides an opportunity to improve the family diet, and at an extremely reasonable cost.

Amy, who has been volunteering with PATCH since the age of 11 (she is now 16) explained how the Christmas Toy Appeal works. Clearly very passionate about the project, she outlined how the appeal works, providing gifts for children aged between 0 and 17, appropriately sorted by gender and age, and where there is more than one child in a family, the parcels are packed to be of equal value. In addition to four or five gifts per child, the boxes contain a family interactive gift (think board games or similar), wrapping paper, art materials and chocolates. The generosity of local people makes this project achievable, further supported by the campaigns run by Radio Pembrokeshire and Natwest Bank.

Last but by no means least, Lou outlined how the Fill Your Boots scheme works. Thanks to the co-operation of local cafes and coffee shops, people who have been given Fill Your Boots vouchers (available in £1 denominations – suggested minimum donation of £5) can take these vouchers along to participating venues, and exchange them for a hot meal and hot drink. For people who have no means by which to prepare a hot meal (homeless, no cooker, no ability to pay for the gas or electric to cook food) this scheme brings a welcome boost. More venues are needed, so if you are able to help, or know of someone who can, please get in touch!

Rounding up the evening, Tracy spoke of future projects and plans. In conjunction with Job Centre Plus and Communities 2.0, and thanks to a generous donation of computers from PRP Training, PATCH will shortly be offering IT sessions enabling people to gain access to the internet, create an email address, access the online provision of the Job Centre and other similar organisations, with guidance and support provided by Dave Lamb. The first of these sessions will start on 22nd September, at 11am til 1pm – please contact Tracy for further details.

The new premises PATCH now occupies has provided additional space for other organisations to provide services. The Want to Work programme visits most Wednesdays, Citizens Advice Bureau are able to provide ad hoc sessions, and with rooms available for meetings, there is a strong emphasis on developing a community hub in the building. Additionally, Ellen Picton of Healthaspire Nutrition Centre now has an office in the building, and will be providing health and wellness advice to PATCH volunteers to enable them to develop the food parcels to deliver as balanced a diet as possible.

There was of course much more included in the evening – presentation of a cheque from Mark and Karen Owen of the Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Co for the sales of the PATCH bar to date, a display of the awards PATCH and the volunteers have won in the recent PAVS Charity Awards being just some. However what did hit home for many present was just how much PATCH does, and why.

Poverty does exist in Pembrokeshire. There are families who through no fault of their own find themselves homeless and suddenly unable to feed or clothe themselves. There are individuals who have had benefits withdrawn or cut, and be left with no income for months on end. There are youngsters who go without gifts and toys at Christmas, potentially falling victim to bullies on their return to school for not having had as many presents as others in their peer group. The work of PATCH is crucially important here in Pembrokeshire. Over the last few years the demands on the service have grown, and continue to do so. As a result of the generosity of Pembrokeshire people, help is given to those in need, but as the demand grows, so does the need for continued support. Whether it is a donation of food, clothes, or money, please help if you can. £2 a month over the course of a year is equivalent to a food parcel for a week for an individual, a couple of hours a week of time given can be all it takes to help someone get back on their feet and be able to support themselves and their family.

The work of PATCH, the time and dedication of Tracy, Carol, and somewhere in the region of 55 volunteers is to be applauded. They are amazing people, making a significant difference to those in need here in Pembrokeshire. Congratulations to all on an informative and thought provoking AGM, and here’s to the coming year and the development of new initiatives, projects and much more!

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