On behalf of Nicola Wallace, Finley and Olivia
Just after Easter on my first supermarket shop since lockdown began and I noticed lots of unsold Easter Eggs left on shelves it made me realise so many people had cancelled family and friends Easter celebrations due to the pandemic. I grabbed another trolley and filled it up with Easter Eggs.
On arriving home myself, Olivia and Finley had a discussion on how much they missed their friends and our usual family get together at Easter. So Olivia asked if we could deliver to some of her school friends by leaving an Easter egg on the doorstep and waving from outside, we went on to deliver to Finley’s friends .
I asked the children where we should deliver the rest of the eggs and we agreed to deliver to the neighbours in our street , we delivered to children in the area who had displayed rainbow pictures. Each delivery was made to the doorstep and we stood back at a safe distance we asked residents to help us to identify the houses with children so we could deliver an egg and a craft pack.
The response was amazing we even had a few tears happy tears on a doorstep and we all soon realised it wasn’t just the small gift we had given it was more that people had once again heard the familiar sound of the doorbell or knock on the door the rush to open it.
Everthing we had all taken for granted in the past had stopped in the UK and much of the world since the pandemic.
From then on Olivia was in charge of the craft packs, Finley was in charge of the eggs. I called stores to find out who had stocks of Easter eggs and was lucky to have one store who held hundreds for us so I could pay and collect them. We self-funded the first 550 Easter eggs, we started having requests in for birthdays, we had a few gifts, we ordered books and a few toys and greetings cards in order to deliver to special requests.
We didn’t intend our small project to reach social media but with lots of happy faces appearing and thanking us for our gifts, we then asked people to send special requests to us for children birthdays or if they were feeling particularly sad.
We received many emails to say how the children had been affected by the lockdown, routines of school, seeing friends, having time with grandparents and their freedom all gone we realised just how the lockdown had affected children’s mental health.
We received a request from a worried grandparent who was herself isolating, she was so worried about her grandchild who has severe autism and had not left their room since lockdown had begun and could we send her grandchild a birthday card. The birthday date was the same as Finley’s birthday. I read the message to the children who thought it would be a good idea to help.
When we asked Finley what he wanted to do on his birthday he said he would like to deliver as many birthday cards as possible to the boy who shared the same birthday.
With that we asked friends, staff at the Co-Op and children at a nearby nursery school to make and send us birthday cards so Finley could deliver a surprise on both their birthdays. We contacted a local balloon company to make us some balloons and after they heard the story they not only made them at short notice they also very kindly donated them to us to take with us when delivering cards and lots of chocolate treats. Both the family along with the grandmothers were all so happy that Finley had delivered the 45 cards, balloons and bag of treats to the youngster on his birthday.
Another request we received was from Cyprus; a serviceman stationed there had seen what we were doing from Facebook and said he was missing his wife and daughter and could we deliver them an egg. We were so touched by this message we sent them a gifted selection of chocolate treats and a note saying her husband had messaged us.
We started to receive Easter egg donations, a lovely lady Carol Gunning and her daughter went to M&S and filled up 2 cars of Easter eggs and donated 250 of them for us to give out to the children in the community in order to bring smiles to children in lockdown.
We decided to give our campaign a name we agreed on “Finley’s bring a smile during lockdown campaign” Olivia myself and Finley were happy to work together on the campaign.
I contacted supermarkets and corporate companies in order to see if we could bring in more donations of eggs. Waitrose Riverhead donated some chocolates to our campaign, Tesco Sevenoaks donated toys and chocolate treats, Lidl in Dartford donated Easter eggs and chocolate treats, Wilkinson’s Swanley donated pick and mix boxes, a local dance school also donated Easter eggs. Most of the corporate companies turned down our request understandably as they were supporting other charities. Waitrose in Longfield asked Finley to nominate a charity for a possible donation from them, the charities are all then put to a panel to decide who they would give a donation to.
We discussed lots of local charities Finley and Olivia both decided on Putting Beams In Hextable forward as they offer such amazing support to families, disabled children, children with special needs etc., we are waiting to hear if they have been selected to receive any funding from Waitrose, we have our fingers crossed.
We then received a very exciting email from Lindt who were donating 2000 Easter eggs.
We were overjoyed to be able to deliver smiles to so many more children.
Soon our huge 4 pallet delivery was with us. We had been busy making room for the delivery. Our living room soon became like a mini factory line; one of us writing the messages, one stamping the stickers and another labelling each egg, soon we had offers of help we had people making and printing stickers for us Finley and Olivia received a community award and goodie bags from the Co-Op.
We had offers from friends. We now have three friends who are kindly helping us distribute the Easter eggs in Farningham, Eynsford and Greenhithe areas.
We decided after hearing many stories of elderly residents becoming withdrawn and lonely during the lockdown we also decided to include the elderly community in our eggs deliveries.
We have so far delivered to food banks, special needs schools, schools and nursery schools looking after our all-important front line workers’ children, retirement villages, care homes, charities looking after homeless communities, families suffering domestic violence, care workers, front line staff amongst others. We have covered very many areas outside of our intended areas.
We are still receiving requests for birthday cards for children and elderly which we deliver a card and small gift.
We all realise so many people and children have been affected by the negative effects of the lockdown and many are suffering from mental health issues.
We are also trying to highlight the importance of food banks and how the local community can help by donating one item of food to the donation trolleys often found at the end of the supermarket after the checkouts as food banks are now feeling the effect of the pandemic and the families needing help will certainly be increasing with potential job losses etc.
As a family want to continue to bring smiles into the community wherever we can.