Since opening its doors barely a week ago, the temporary distribution centre at the University of Cumbria sports hall on Fusehill Street, Carlisle has been inundated with donations and offers of help from volunteers compelled to assist flood-stricken residents in Carlisle and Cumbria.
So far, the centre is thought to have helped over 2800* people affected by floods, with more coming through the doors each day. Items available at the centre include clothes, bedding, food and water, cleaning materials and storage boxes.
All these items have been kindly donated by individuals and businesses in the local area who are displaying astonishing compassion towards others in need, including a number of local super-stores which have donated thousands of pounds worth of goods.
Sainsburys, whose store has been temporarily closed following flood damage, donated 20 pallets of new clothing and toiletries and are making daily deliveries as required. While Tesco, similarly affected, have donated cleaning materials and provided volunteers to man the centre.
Aldi delivered £16k of stock to the Fusehill Street centre as well as sites in Penrith and Kendal over the weekend. B&Q contributed mops and buckets, while Wickes, another Carlisle store closed by the floods, redirected its staff to help out at the centre. Asda are due to make a delivery of cleaning materials, boxes, tin openers and cutlery.
Charitable organisations also offered help. Islamic Relief sent volunteers from Preston on Friday and Asma Vali from Quwwatul Islam mosque, also in Preston, donated £600 worth of new childrens’ giftware and cupcakes for the volunteers. Asma is a student at the university’s Lancaster campus and felt she just had to help.
Saturday saw the TV chef, Ravi Singh’s Kahlsa Aid charity serve free Indian food, while the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and Air Cadets, 1862 Squadron both lent a hand over the weekend.
But the acts of benevolence do not end there, individuals who saw the devastation either in person or on TV have felt obliged to help in any way they can. Charlotte and Lee Graham from Ulverston hired a van and made collections locally which they brought up to the centre, while two locals from Carlisle donated their joint 21st birthday cake to feed volunteers at the centre. Other volunteers have come from afar afield as the North East, Bolton, Wigan and even London to help.
Closer to home, Joe Hetterick, 26, of Stanwix saw the terrible effects for the floods and wanted to help. He said: “On Monday I went for a walk and managed to get into town and saw the damage. I went to see if the shelter centres needed any donations but it became apparent that what they really needed was man-power and so I’ve been here ever since. I was fortunate enough not to be affected by the floods so it’s the least I can do to help others who have.”
Sandra Booth, Pro Vice Chancellor for Enterprise, Business Development and Engagement, said: “I have been to the centre and seen with my own eyes the fantastic and awe-inspiring work of our volunteers who are selflessly devoting their spare time to help others at the centre. It’s a tribute to the spirit of Carlisle and I couldn’t be prouder that our staff and students have been instrumental in setting-up and running this vitally important service.”
The university made the sport hall facilities available last Monday, 7 December, at the request of Greystone Community Centre.
Volunteers from the Rotary Club in Carlisle, Students’ Union and university staff are working in shifts to staff it. Health advice and access to counselling services are also available at the centre, courtesy of NHS health visitor volunteers.
Anyone affected by the floods is invited to collect what they need while the temporary distribution centre remains open. Further donations of cleaning products and storage boxes are still very much required, although the centre no longer requires second-hand clothes.
In addition, student volunteers are visiting some of the worst hit areas in Carlisle to offer their help to the public and make them aware of support available. They are taking basic supplies, including milk, tinned goods and cleaning products and distributing them to those most in need in the community. The City Council is distributing leaflets to make affected residents aware of the services available at the distribution centre.
The temporary distribution centre is open between the hours of 10am and 5pm on week days and 10am to 4pm at weekends. It will remain open until 23 December, when the university closes for the Christmas break.
In other developments, the university is offering temporary office space to the Trout Hotel in Cockermouth for a period of six months while repairs are made to the hotel.