The guest speaker at our Zoom meeting on Wednesday 27 January was Mark North, who is CEO of the Bolsover Freedom Project. We have worked closely with the Freedom Project for many years, and early in the Covid lockdown we donated £4000 to support the work of their foodbank. in his talk, Mark told us something of how the Charity has grown over the past 12 years.
With 200 volunteers working across 14 sites, the Charity supports many areas of need, from food banks to financial advice centres.
The Covid emergency has increased its work from about 100 phone calls per week requesting help, to between 600 and 1000 during the epidemic. In normal times they would expect to distribute 40-50 food parcels per week, but during the first Covid lockdown this rose to over 800 every week. Thankfully this has reduced over the year but it is still running at 100-150 each week.
Mark told us about the latest ventures too. The Charity is working to develop “Homeless Hubs” which will provide portable, temporary accommodation, giving those living on the streets a roof over their heads while they seek somewhere more permanent to live. At the same time they are looking to encourage micro-enterprise businesses under the title Freedom International. Operating intially in the UK and Uganda, the aim is to train people to develop small businesses, which will in turn become drivers to community growth and development.
The Charity will shortly be moving their offices to Bainbridge Hall in New Bolsover (pictured right), and the existing units in Hillstown will be converted into a micro-enterprise centre.
Mark is very optimistic about Bolsover’s future. He is convinced that with a lot of new housing encouraging new residents and the regeneration of local industry and the town centre continuing, the picture for Bolsover, post-Covid is good.
Rotary will be there to help.