Mon, 01 Jun 2020
A CHARITY providing a home and support to young people in West Berkshire is asking for people to help it celebrate a 10-year milestone.
Young People and Children First (YPACF) supports people aged between 16 and 25 in the district, who have been in care or are homeless.
The charity was formed by foster parents John and Patsy Stone in 2008 to help young people leaving care or homeless to live independently.
The charity now owns two properties in Thatcham – Rebecca House, which has rooms for three young people, and Cornerstone, which opened 10 years ago and accommodates five.
YPACF had planned a series of events to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Cornerstone, including a ball and the Virgin 10km London Run, which have been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With its fundraising income dropping 70 per cent during the pandemic, the charity is putting on a series of events themed around the number 10, with 10 activities over 10 days between June 1 and 10.
Chief executive Tracy Underwood said they were to “ensure the charity was here for the next 10 years”.
She said: “We are losing so many thousands of pounds every month, a lot comes from events that we run.”
Activities include Mrs Underwood and her family running/cycling 350kms over the 10 days, Mrs Stone knitting 10 Alzheimer’s Fiddle Mitts and children baking 10 cakes for vulnerable adults who are self-isolating.
Another friend of the charity will be delivering 10 thank you boxes of chocolates to YPACF supporters over 10 days on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Mrs Underwood said: “He will be going to Thames Valley Police and the ambulance service. They have come out three times for panic attacks with our young people and they are also so supportive of us.”
Other organisations that have supported the charity include the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire and the Foodbank.
YPACF had aimed to open a third house to meet demand by the end of 2020, but Mrs Underwood said the charity was eating into its reserves because of its reduced fundraising income.
She said: “There was a real need before Covid I can’t provide at the moment because we don’t have that house.
“People have been taken off the street into hotels, but what will happen to them at the end? The need will be greater after this .
“My main priority is to be able to transition us through this, to keep money coming in so we can be in a good position to provide this when this is over.”
As guidance was issued for people to self-isolate or socially distance when the virus hit the UK, Mrs Underwood said: “We lost two members of staff pretty much straight away through vulnerability.
“I would have kept them if I could, but I had no choice.”
But staff and volunteers went “above and beyond”, including Mrs Underwood and other staff doing sleep-ins to provide 24/7 support.
“The staff have been amazing,” she said.
“We have provided all the tools we can provide for the young people to ease their anxiety.
“They have needed us more than ever.
“Our support workers are going in every day for face-to-face support, social distancing, but we are still providing that service.
“I need to protect the staff.
“When we go in we socially distance as much as possible.
“I have managed to get PPE… it’s the balance of giving our young people all that guidance without frightening them.
“It’s their family home, but there’s guidance up saying what they can and can’t do.”
Among the anxiety Mrs Underwood said that positives had emerged from the pandemic, with members of staff getting to know the young people much better.
She said: “They are not with us all the time, we want them to be independent, but because of lockdown we’re with them three times as long as they ever would be.”
The young people in the charity’s care have been kept busy with gardening, crafting and decorating activities, alongside normal budget management, cooking and CV writing sessions.
“Pet therapy, including with staff dogs, had also eased stress and anxiety.
“We have done more with them because they are not working and they are missing it like everyone else,” Mrs Underwood said.
“Their main support network is a friend, but that’s been taken away from them.
“That was extremely hard for them to not be able to go out and be with their friends.”
And with fears of a recession rising, Mrs Underwood said the charity would continue to seize opportunities for its young people
“Recession or not there will be opportunities and it’s making sure they have that,” she said.
YPACF has raised half of its £10,000 target and donations can be made at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=YPACF1010