Here at Reading Family Aid, we’re in touch with a large range of organisations and charities that help families in need in the Reading area. Over the last few months we’ve been working closely with five of them to plan a Summer Toy Project, which aims to give these families and children a reason to smile after a particularly stressful few months.
The Summer Toy Project is a new initiative that we are launching on 13th July. In order to enable us to distribute toys to children in need, we have set up some Amazon Gift Lists which will provide toys to our partner charities.
We were keen to find out more about how these organisations and charities help families in need and we spoke to a few of them.
With the ongoing stresses that COVID-19 is bringing to families, First Days explained that over the last few months, families have had the hard task of finding new ways to engage and entertain children at home, often with limited space. A representative said:
'Being able to request new toys and games from Reading Family Aid has meant that we have been able to put together fantastic and varied toy packs for families referred to us at this difficult time - something to help keep children entertained and take the pressure off parents at a time of great stress. As the economic impact of the pandemic increases, we anticipate that even more children and families will need our help and it is great to have a head start with so many brand new items to give out to those who most need them.'
Among the toys that First Days recently received were packages for a family who are isolating due to illness and a little boy who had a birthday recently and whose mum was struggling financially. These gifts brought great joy to both families.
Donate to First Days here.
Another organisation, the Weller Centre, is committed to providing a community centre mainly to those in Lower Caversham. Many of their visitors have no green space of their own and the centre has a green area beside the centre which visitors are encouraged to enjoy.
They will be able to use toys provided by Reading Family Aid, 95% of which can be used both indoors and outdoors, such as giant versions of snakes and ladders, dominoes and noughts and crosses.
The centre also runs family fun days throughout the year and plans to lend toys and games out to families to be used for a few days at a time. The team at the Weller Centre truly believes that the centre belongs to the community so would love them to have a say in some of the upcoming decoration of the garden area – hence they are hoping some craft kits will be purchased.
Donate to the Weller Centre here.
Home-Start Reading has had toys delivered to their offices and are planning to distribute them to coincide with the end of the school term. After a difficult and uncertain few months, it will give the children they work with something new to look forward to as the schools break up and the long summer holidays start. Home-Start Reading said to us:
'We are really grateful for the amazing generosity of Reading Family Aid for providing such a lovely amount of indoor and outdoor toys for our families. We cannot wait to start delivering these to our supported children, who we know will be very pleased and excited to have something new to enjoy throughout the summer holidays.'
Donate to Home-Start Reading here.
Our fourth organisation, Alana House, is a community project providing a confidential, women-only, non-judgemental space for women who feel they need help. A holistic approach is used to support and empower women and enable them to make positive changes in their lives, thereby improving the outcomes for themselves and their families.
Donate to Alana House here.
Amongst the stresses and uncertainties of everyday life during this unprecedented time, Reading Family Aid and the organisations we work with are committed to bringing some joy and smiles where we can.
We hope you will join us in buying from our Amazon Gift Lists so we can help more families this summer.
The Reading Family Aid AGM was held on July 2nd - over Zoom of course!
The Chair, Ruth Perkins, gave a report of the year, contrasting the first very successful first half to the year followed by a challenging second half with Covid-19 putting a stop to many of our activities.
She also said how pleased she was at the way the committee had risen to the challenge of finding news ways to support the families.
The Treasurer, David Berry, reported that while income was slightly up, expenses had increased over the previous year but still funds were in reasonable shape for the coming months.
You can read the Annual Report here.
We are pleased to announce that our charity is one of the local causes that will be supported by the new Reading Community Lottery.
Reading Community Lottery is a new initiative which aims to support local causes. For every £1 you spend, we receive 50p and another 10p is shared between all the charities, and you could win up to £25,000.
The first lottery draw takes place on 28th March, so buy your ticket now to make sure you don't miss out.
Ruth Perkins, Chair, gave a talk about the history and work of Reading Family Aid to St Catherine's Church Tilehurst Mother's Union on Wednesday 12th Feb 2020. There was some dismay at the level of deprivation in Reading today, but they were appreciative of all of the work that we do.
They made a donation to RFA that will pay for some of the ice-creams at Camp Mohawk!
The picture shows Maureen Norman presenting the donation to Ruth.
On 18th December we enjoyed some carol singing at the Wheelwright Arms.
The carol singing was organised by members of the Foundation Church who have been raising money at the Wheelwright Arms for a few years now. This year we were the recipients.
The singing was accompanied by keyboard and guitar and there was an MC. Seasonal readings and cracker jokes interspersed the carols. Sallie (who read a lesson), Tracy, Val & Wendy represented RFA wearing their fetching t shirts. The "audience" joined in with the singing and were happy to part with their money to the tune of £187.
A very enjoyable evening was had by all.
On Thursday night it was the Mayor's Civic Carol Service at St Mary's Minster Church.
As one of the Mayor's Charities this year we, along with his other charities, were invited to do a reading. Wendy volunteered to do this for us.
The Toys and Teens Appeal is now over for 2019. In total we collected and distributed toys to over 2,000 children. Sadly, that’s an increase of 300 children since last year, which shows how important this appeal is for Reading families at Christmas time.
Over 15,000 new and nearly new toys were donated by the incredibly generous community including individuals and companies, churches and other and organisations: The Berkshire Freemasons, ROC Search, Logicalis, WorkDay, Deloitte, Clarify, Verizon, Dell, Dynamic Family Chiropractic, Reading Farmers Market, SAP Concur, Wellington Country Park, Throgmartin, BDO, Stewarts Coaches and so many more.
Over the course of a week the toys were collected from the many donation points across Reading, including Big Yellow Storage, in vans kindly lent to us for free by Caversham Vehicle Hire.
The toys arrived at our hall, and were packed with the help of our incredible volunteers, some of whom have been packing toys for us for 10 years! Thanks to BDO, PWC, RBS, Throgmorten, Huntswood, Dell, SAP Concur and the many other companies and individuals that helped over the week. And thanks to Maiden Earley Rotary Club for sponsoring the food and drink that kept our volunteers going during the week
The toys have now been delivered to the people who requested toys on behalf of the families with whom they work: Social Workers, Health Visitors, Schools, Churches and other Charities who will deliver them to their families. We’re sure these gifts will put a smile on the faces of all the children this Christmas.
Lastly, a huge thank you to our main sponsors: The Reading Chronicle, Big Yellow Storage, The Berkshire Freemasons and Caversham Vehicle Hire. This appeal couldn’t happen without you.
But the Toy Appeal is not the only thing Reading Family Aid do each year. We also take deprived children to the Pantomime and on a Summer Outing to a theme park, the seaside or another lovely location. To do this we need sponsorship and funding. Our charity is completely non-profit and we get no regular funding, and all our committee and volunteers work for free meaning any money you donate goes straight to giving these children a wonderful experience and putting smiles on their faces. If you can spare any donation, please go to our DONATE NOW page, or if you are a member of a company please get in touch as we’d love to be one of your chosen charities this year.
The Toy Project has always used large black plastic bags to pack and deliver the Christmas gifts to families, but this year we looked for an alternative to non recyclable bags.
Research showed that there wasn’t an affordable alternative, which would be strong enough and the correct size, until someone suggested that we ask for donations of old, clean, duvet covers and make our own.
Requests went out to friends, Freegle and on Facebook and we got started. Each double duvet makes 4 bags, with lots of variety of patterns. We have penguins, dinosaurs, lots of flowers, both large and small, colourful checks and plain red, blue, white and brown, which we hope will be fun to pack, and a small contribution to the reduction in plastic waste.
We won’t have sufficient numbers this year, but will trial them to make sure that they are strong enough. We would like them to be returned to us, for use next year.
Meanwhile more duvet covers will be gratefully received.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone that used their green tokens in Waitrose in Caversham to vote for us!
As you can see form the photo we got the biggest share of the tokens which magically turned into a cheque for £404, which Wendy collected from Jared Carroll who looks after the Community Matters Scheme in Caversham.
On a perfect day in early August (not too hot and dry all day) we were at Earley Green Fair. The main focus of the Fair is, as its name suggests, Green things. So lots of stalls promoting the environment, animal welfare, plants, recycling etc, etc.
We had 3 spaces there selling our left overs from last year's Toy Project - those items not suitable or just a bit too scruffy or items that turned out to be for adults rather than for children - along with general bric-a-brac, books and a fantastic raffle.
Friend of the committee, Steve, also used a bit of our space to sell his jams and chutneys and then very kindly donated his proceeds to us - thanks Steve!
It was a very profitable day with just over £800 being raised and with £245 from Steve we cleared £1,000 for the day. We also sported our new gazebo for the first time.
We'll be there again next year so make a note in your diary for August 1st 2020 and find us by Maiden Erlegh Lake.
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