OCL initiates new partnerships to help local residents during COVID-19 crisis

Although Oldham Community Leisure’s (OCL) centres are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the leisure Trust is continuing to serve the community to ensure help gets to local people who need it most.

Initially when its centres closed, OCL donated all stocks from its vending machines to the Oldham Food Bank. Since then the situation has evolved and, led by Community Development & Partnership Manager Kelly Tattersall, Oldham Leisure Centre (OLC) has been turns into the Foodbank operations hub.

All deliveries from external businesses come to OLC, staff and volunteers make up food parcels and distribute to local families and the OCL team is also assisting with the logistics of collections from supermarkets.

Tattersall says: “In the last two weeks we haven’t been able to serve our community in the way we would usually, by helping them to stay active, so we have moved our resources to help our community where it needs us most. We saw the opportunity to initiate new partnerships to help local residents during COVID-19 crisis. We can’t serve our community in the way we would usually, by helping them to stay active, so we’ve moved resources to help where people need us most.

“My team and I have helped to pick up and deliver emergency food parcels and this week we set up Oldham Leisure Centre’s Sports Hall as the Oldham Foodbank hub. Voluntary, faith, statutory and private organisations across Oldham have been working together in partnership. This is a real Oldham approach to the COVID19 – a true partnership to tackle local community challenges and ensure emergency essentials are delivered to people who are most in need #TeamOldham.”

Pre coronavirus, the Oldham Foodbank supplied about 100 food parcels to families in need per week. Now it’s up to 280 a week as incomes have plummeted and it’s taking a huge toll.

Father Tom Davis founded the foodbank in 2012. He says: “OCL and the volunteers have been absolutely outstanding. Being in Oldham Leisure Centres not only allows us to make sure volunteers can socially distance but it gives us the space to pack up what are becoming very large parcels. When you consider OCL’s staff have gone from teaching swimming or kicking footballs around with young kids to selecting and delivering food parcels; it’s such a huge team effort. We’ve thrown a diverse mix people together with a common goal, to ensure the most vulnerable are being cared for.”

OCL staff are also making regular phone calls to isolated members, supplying exercise guides to keep people moving at home and just having a chat. This month they’ll release some online chair-based exercise videos older exercisers can safely follow, too.

“The internet is awash with online exercise content but none of it is suitable for older or more vulnerable people,” says Tattersall.

Stuart Lockwood, Chief Executive, says: “Oldham is a very proud borough with a huge community ethos. As an organisation, we are honoured to be a part of that. I believe we are integral to community spirit and, as such, we’re all working hard to keep our community active, healthy, connected and safe.

“The world is a very different place right now and everyone is affected. “Across the community, we serve a wide range of individuals and groups. Over the next few weeks we will continue to support people in any way we can as we prepare for a return to normal life once COVID-19 passes.”