Football fans have delivered thousands of food packages around Wimbledon as the Dons Local Action Group (DLAG) celebrated its six-month anniversary in September.
In its first six months, the DLAG has already delivered over 120,000 food boxes, and over 800 laptops and tablets to local schoolchildren.
Co-founder Xavier Wiggins highlighted the enthusiasm of the community as the driving force behind the DLAG’s recent growth.
He said: “We could do none of this without the support of the public.
“There is no greater challenge than a global pandemic, but we have been faced with that challenge and just got on with it. I’m just immensely proud of how everyone has pulled together to make this happen.”
Partnering with the AFC Wimbledon Foundation, the DLAG has worked closely with food banks, charities and churches as they look to establish themselves permanently even past the coronavirus pandemic.
Volunteers from all around Merton, Wandsworth and Kingston have come together to lend a hand in the group’s organisation and daily operations.
Front line teams have spread the goodwill at stalls across the area while drivers and phone operators have been hard at work keeping deliveries on schedule.
Wiggins said: “There are all sorts of weird and wonderful people involved. It’s been really exciting actually.
“Because of furlough, unemployment and a general waking up of the volunteer ethos we have attracted lots of younger volunteers. We’ve got the very young, the very old, and the people in between.
“Each moment spent volunteering with us is creating a tangible benefit on the other side.”
A huge effort has also gone on backstage with safeguarding, fundraising and marketing teams turning the DLAG into an organisation here for the long-term.
Wiggins pointed to the AFC Wimbledon Foundation for their contributions in a community that is much more than just football fans.
“They were helping throughout the peak Covid times. We lean on them for all sorts of different things and the flip side is that we can help them deliver lots of support in the community as well.
“It’s a logical and perfect partnership really.”
The group has also reached out to schoolchildren who have been forced to study from home with its ‘Keep Kids Connected’ scheme, providing them with remote access to their education while still in lockdown.
Additionally, the DLAG will set up a mentoring service for young people in south west London this month, which Wiggins believes will take full advantage of the close connections in the community.
“We are piloting it with South Thames College. We’ve got a dozen students there that we are going to do workshops with and then they will receive one-to-one mentoring from January.
“We will call on mentor figures from within the DLAG to help them in their areas of support.
“That is really an example of where we’ve got such a vast body of people with so many skills.”
The DLAG is still reaching out for volunteers as many people return to work, and they welcome any help that can be offered, be it once a month to a few times a week.
Local people can also donate laptops and tablets to ‘Keep Kids Connected’ and the group is currently fundraising to buy their own van to keep the deliveries coming.
The Dons Local Action Group has secured itself within the south west London community, but co-founder Wiggins is determined to stick to the simple goal that he set from the start.
“There are so many positives to come out of the last few months and to be honest we never set this up with a great plan, we just set it up to help as many people as we could.
“We will always want to do more and help people in more ways, so we will do what we can, and we will do it properly.”
Details on how to get involved are on the DLAG website.