Every month we’ll be talking to our network of volunteers up and down the country, turning the spotlight on their local projects and finding out what they do and why. This month, we’ve caught up Lucy Connor and her 11 year old daughter Paris, who together coordinate THB in Stoke-on-Trent. They have been very busy working with schools in their area.
How did you become a volunteer with the Hygiene Bank?My daughter Paris is a finalist in the Royal Sapphire UK, natural beauty pageant which encourages children to get involved with charity and community work.As part of her pageant journey, she is given a charity to fundraise for but is also asked to get involved with other charity and community work.
She’d worked hard at various events, officially opened a new florist, and held her own event, but she wanted to do more. Other pageant contestants collect for the likes of the foodbank, red box project, etc, so Paris wanted to do something different. Having been in difficult situations and visiting food banks for support ourselves, the Hygiene Bank was a cause she could relate to.
I can remember thinking;‘I can’t even afford a loaf of bread, how do I find enough for washing powder, toilet roll and shampoo?’, so The Hygiene Bank was the perfect choice for us.
However when we got in touch, we were told that the current PC for Stoke-On-Trent was unable to continue and unless someone was willing to take it on, the local project would be closing.
Lizzy asked if I was able to take on the responsibility and although I was apprehensive at first, here we are ! Paris has since helped to set up drop-off points in our area including one at her school Kingsland CE Academy.She is involved in as much as she can, anything outside of school hours!
What have you been focusing on recently?By the end of August, I made a huge decision to give up work and take this on full time. I sent an email to every primary and secondary school in the area introducing The Hygiene Bank and asking them to get in touch if they would like to be a charity partner and/or do a collection.
September was a busy month! Some days I had back to back meetings with schools who needed our help. The arrangement I have with schools, is that they contact me when a family needs help, and we make up a tailored parcel depending on how many members of the family, and ages of children. Paris is involved in as much as she can, anything outside of school hours. In the future, once we have more donations coming in, I’d like every school to have their own supplies which we will keep topped up.
What have been your greatest challenges?I must admit, I relied on social media too much and was frustrated that I wasn’t getting very far, but we managed to pick up some collections from our drop-off points, and make our first donation to the foodbank. Speaking with local businesses and newspapers has proved beneficial. The Sentinel, reached out to interview us, the article was almost a full page spread on the second page!
What advice would you offer volunteers just starting their THB journey?I absolutely love being part of THB and feel like we are a big family. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging, and it’s heart-warming to make a difference in your community knowing that these little things mean so much.
If I could offer any advice, it would be to always mention the kinds of products we collect, as many people assume that hygiene products just means sanitary wear, which is already covered by a number of other organisations.
Also when you coordinate a drop-off point, be sure to arrange when you will be collecting the donations. I didn’t do this at first and am now having to change it to ensure continuity and professionalism.
You should also think about fundraising from the beginning as you will need some marketing materials, equipment, etc. We’ve had some help from local businesses, supplying roller banners for events and things.
If this is your local area and you would like to get involved by donating or volunteering, please visit the Facebook page set up by Lucy and Paris to find out how. https://www.facebook.com/Thbstoke/