Hertfordshire based charity Small Acts of Kindness (SAOK) has provided a lifeline for elderly members of the community since launching in 2015, helping to reduce loneliness and isolation by connecting communities with kindness.
During the pandemic, these services have been invaluable to older people, many of whom found themselves locked down alone for months on end with little or no communication with the outside world. In 2020, the charity supported more than 15,500 Hertfordshire residents.
The incredible work was recognised in June when SAOK received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, for efforts to reduce the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on the physical and mental wellbeing of older people living in Hertfordshire.
Lynne Misner, Small Acts of Kindness founder and CEO said: “We are absolutely thrilled and delighted that the hard work and dedication of our volunteers has been recognised with the highest award any charity can receive in the UK. Everything we do is led by our wonderful family of volunteers and this award recognises their efforts above all.”
Like most, the charity had to adapt quickly when the pandemic began and work hard to fulfil the growing demand for their services across Hertfordshire.
Lynne explained: “We actively decided in March 2020 to carry on with our work, but the biggest concern was whether the volunteers would be able to help, and they did. It was very moving to see how selfless people were.
“The demand for our work increased when the first lockdown hit, and we worked in partnership with lots of organisations across Hertfordshire to help people in the community who were finding it most challenging.”
Small Acts of Kindness was founded back in January 2015 when SAOK founder Lynne sat at home in Watford with a broken boiler and read a newspaper article about how some elderly people have to choose between heating their homes and eating. Lynne was shocked and came up with the idea to put together gift bags to help the elderly.
This year, the charity has supported thousands of people across Hertfordshire, formed new partnerships and continued and strengthened work with established partners. Projects over the year have included:
- 7,000 Warm in Winter gift bags distributed throughout Hertfordshire.
- Supporting the delivery of 500 cooked meals cooked by The Grove Hotel,
- together with Watford & West Herts Chamber of Commerce and Home-Start Watford.
- 3,000 Mental Health Wellbeing Packs with our partners Hertfordshire Independent Living Service.
- 200 Wellbeing Rescue gift bags for patients admitted at a point of mental health crisis and then discharged, with Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust’s Mental Health Liaison Team.
- 1,200 Christmas gifts wrapped and delivered to care home residents with Violets Gifts.
Lynne said: “We had to hugely adapt during the pandemic and limit the number of people per packing session, change how we packed gift bags, volunteers were in PPE and constantly cleaning, it’s just wonderful that people were and are so willing to adapt.”
Many of the SAOK volunteers felt lonely themselves due to furlough or changing circumstances and used volunteering as a way to get involved and help out within the community. One volunteer said: “As I was packing the bags I knew each bag would bring a smile to somebody’s face and that makes volunteering so worthwhile.”
Lynne added: “There is a huge amount of evidence of the power for wellbeing that volunteering brings and that has never been more evident than in the last year.”
SAOK is now searching for a permanent home in Hertfordshire that will enable the charity to expand. Lynne said: “We are looking for warehouse space where we can store stock and pack the bags. We still have a lot of work to do and it would be lovely to have a hub in Hertfordshire that we could engage with more volunteers.”
Reflecting on the pandemic, Lynne concluded: “One of the really lovely things that has come out of the last year is how much closer communities are to each other and the support that people give at all times, and the awareness people have of people around them.
“If nothing else, we hope that this kindness is a lasting legacy. These small acts of kindness made such a difference, if people can remember that and carry that forward it will be one positive from this awful time.”
For more information visit smallactsofkindness.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org call 01923 372717 or follow @smallkindact on Twitter and Instagram.