The season that kept on giving
With the number of things that need sorting in our society, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by how anything you do is going to make any discernible difference. One action that's consistently helped me feel some sense of agency in amongst the powerlessness is charitable giving. It has for a long time, even before I started voting - volunteering helped me fight the rootlessness and isolation I felt at university, and my first real job was running the small non-profit I'd been working with throughout. As a corporate bod, I serviced that need to give back through my employer's PAYE scheme, my monthly donations heading out to the fantastic IntoUniversity, the charity I served as a trustee at the time, alongside the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust and the Anthony Nolan Trust. I volunteered once a week as a reading partner with a local primary school, and I was honoured to serve as a Games Maker during the London Olympics; I'll always be grateful to my (wonderful) boss at the time for giving me the time off to do so. I remember others who weren't so supportive.
But when I had my first child, I stopped finding the time to volunteer. And when I was made redundant in 2016 (not by said wonderful boss), I stopped regular giving, too. With no income, charitable giving for me became limited to one-off sponsorship donations for mates doing charity runs, as I just couldn't afford to do more. When I landed a part-time job at the end of 2017, it was a massive relief to be able to get back to a little giving; my monthly donations now head locally to The Avenues Youth Centre. I didn't start volunteering again, but I sponsored my local picturehouse's The Lexi's 10 year anniversary celebrations with hundreds of £s worth of cake in 2018, and was able to donate a cake box prize for the Love Local charity auction in 2019. And when the pandemic hit, giving more cake where I could just felt right.
I'm fortunate to live down the road from another wonderful pro baker, Elaine, who was shielding at home while looking for the best way to show some love to NHS workers using her caker skills. With a brother-in-law working in the Whittington's ICU, plus a cousin on the wards at Northwick Park, Elaine had the connection to get our bakes to the right place, and we teamed up for three deliveries to the sometimes overlooked night shift. Alexia at Queens Park Mums personally delivered of a fourth set of our bakes to the team at the nearby St Charles Centre for Health and Wellness, pictured below.
My mate Hannah, an NHS obs and gynae consultant, donated the brownies she'd bought to the ward sisters at her hospital. Many of my brownie clients were ordering edible love for the NHS frontline workers and civil servants in their lives, showing their own appreciation for their service. I have it on good authority that one Den Bake Shop brownie batch even ended up in the Chancellor's office during the furlough meetings!
But the main recipients of my donations over the past three months have been the local charities who support vulnerable families. It is astounding to me that working people are still struggling to provide by their families, but let me not get started on the politics. Still, it's heartening to see the bevy of small but determined charities stepping into the breach. For food, NW10 and NW6 locals can count on the Granville Community Kitchen of Carlton Vale, Laurence’s Larder of Brondesbury and Willesden's Mutual Aid Foodbank, all of whom have been flat out throughout the various lockdowns this year. For other services, there's Queens Park-based refugee charity Salusbury World, Brondesbury’s teenage mental health charity the Brent Centre for Young People, and Kensal Green’s Elders Voice, which supports older people. The annual Christmas Love Local auction supports them all, and I'm delighted to be a part of it again in 2020.
Check out all the lots on offer here, and please bid generously!