Still serving our communities

while centres are closed

We’re incredibly proud of the way our staff have responded to the massive change in circumstance that was trust upon them when our centres closed in late March.

Instead of simply putting their feet up at home or enjoying the spell of gorgeous weather in their gardens, many of them used their new-found spare time to do something positive and help their local community – probably because they were so used to doing that as a day job, it was hard to stop!  

So, we’ve dedicated this blog to them, giving a shout out to some of the amazing things they are doing while we are in lockdown. If you recognise any of the people involved – feel free to give them a big smile when we are all back in the centres!

Several of our staff responded to the rally cry for volunteers to help the NHS. Sarah, Fitness Manager at West Bromwich Leisure Centre, and Emily Allen, Area Sports Development Manager, both signed up to the Royal Voluntary Service. Sarah is providing telephone support to people at risk of loneliness due to isolation, whereas Emily is responding to alerts in her area, linking her to those nearby who need help. This can be anything from collecting a prescription, to calling someone who is lonely, or collecting shopping for someone in isolation.

Emily said: “So far I have called and checked in with a wonderful 93-year-old lady. She was very grateful to have someone call her and have a chat. I also helped an older gentleman who was confused to what was happening with his prescription so I called his pharmacy and got the info that he needed. You can be ‘on duty’ as often as you want. It’s good to know that people in the community are there to help those who need it.”

Danielle Smith, Lifeguard at Bradford-on-Avon Swimming Pool, is also a voluntary member for St John’s Ambulance, so is currently working 12-hour shifts with South Western Ambulance Service Trust (SWAST), assisting in communications at the Bristol Nightingale Hospital.

Ollie Hampson, Duty Manager and Health and Safety Coordinator at Parish Wharf Leisure Centre is volunteering for London’s Ambulance Service Critical Care Transport, transporting COVID-19 positive cases to their designated hospital. You can read his fascinating first-person account, here.

Other staff members have found different ways to support their communities, whether in person or online. For example, Richard Latham, Active Health Referral Coordinator for West Wiltshire, is delighting his GP referral clients by making videos (with the help of his son, Mace) to keep them active and mobile while in isolation. You can read more and watch the videos, here.

One client, Pat, wrote to him to say: “Just a quick thank you for this very helpful workout video. I find playing the video clip whilst exercising much more motivating and encouraging, so thank you and Mace for producing this workout aid to keep us all 'moving' in these strange times.”

Amy and Louisa from Sparkhill Leisure Centre have become local heroes after setting up a Facebook Group to take requests for buying and delivering essential food and home supplies (plus some surprise Easter treats) for people in the area who cannot currently get to the shops because of illness or self-isolation. Read more about the success of their local support scheme, here.

Despite being closed, some of our buildings are still serving a useful and important role in the community! Some have been repurposed for the NHS to use: Rotherham and Maltby leisure centres are hosting blood donors sessions, and Graves Health & Sports Centre is supporting its partner the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine, enabling them take additional pressure off the NHS services by carrying out telephone consultations with patients that would otherwise have to seek their treatment and advice within an NHS setting. Tooting Leisure Centre has suspended parking restrictions to allow St George’s Hospital NHS staff to use the car park free of charge.

The closure of our centres also had the bittersweet result that unsold food and drink to the tune of £25,000 from our cafés and vending machines was distributed to local food banks and charities. Epping's share was donated to Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF) who gave it to volunteers delivering shopping and medication to referred, vulnerable or at-risk persons and households. Some was also gratefully received by senior residents in EFDC-run sheltered housing accommodations, with more to follow.

Jina Symes from VAEF said: “Residents have really appreciated the donated snacks, but also the fact that they are being thought about in these difficult times. What comes across to me is that the elderly think they are forgotten about and the fact that local businesses and charities are keeping them in mind goes a long way.”

As you can tell, we have a lot to feel proud of! We look forward to welcoming you back to our centres very soon, but in the meantime, we hope you might be interacting with us in ways like these above – and above all that you are staying safe and well.