A charity duo dubbed as crisis angels are using innovation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to continue supporting Croydon’s vulnerable.
Caroline Mason and Angela Johnson are sisters who founded charity MADE, which stands for Making A Difference Everywhere, two years ago as part of Life City Church, Croydon.
MADE was established to support those in immediate need, offering diverse welfare aid to families and individuals affected by hardship, abuse, homelessness, dependency issues and crime.
Angela recalled: “I said to Caroline the other day: ‘we’re a bit like crisis angels’!”
However, a global pandemic forced the charity to adapt.
Caroline said: “COVID-19 has had a real impact on people emotionally and financially.
“Just talking to people we’ve realised that, although they might be living in a nice area, they are really suffering.”
In a survey by Greater London Authority in August 2020, 30% of Londoners said personal finances were their biggest concern in the coming 12 months, while 29% said they were unemployed or not working.
The prolonged restrictions in England, including three lockdowns and social distancing, meant MADE’s work has had to take many new shapes to continue supporting Croydon’s vulnerable effectively and safely.
Angela said: “Before the pandemic, one thing we always tried to do was provide hampers around the school holidays.
“But we can’t do the hampers right now because of COVID-19. So, Christmas just gone, we had to be innovative.”
In December, Caroline and Angela collected £4000 in two weeks on behalf of MADE and Life City and then contacted their network to find families in need of financial aid at Christmas.
Angela said: “When we reached out to our network, we were flooded with responses.
“We went to Morrisons and purchased food vouchers, and then gave them to our network to distribute among the families that we’d identified needed help.”
In MADE’s earlier days, Caroline and Angela met with various organisations, including the Metropolitan Police and Department for Work and Pensions, to create a gateway to the people seriously suffering in their community.
Caroline explained that MADE supply police with hygiene packages of toiletries, clothes and blankets so that in the event of a late night emergency, officers only need to access their stock room to support vulnerable people.
With a 72 hour quarantine regime in place on goods by Public Health England, a prepared stock room reduces the impact of an emergency and protects those involved from potential contamination.
Furthermore, Caroline and Angela help furnish empty homes for movers in the pandemic by ordering furniture on the internet directly to the property.
Caroline added: “If one of our network approaches us to help with food or clothes for a client and I need to drop it off, I will still get the stuff but drop it off at the door and totally move away.”
Statistics suggest that the demand for charities like MADE during COVID-19 exists predominantly amongst London’s poorest families.
Research conducted by Resolution Foundation found that COVID-19 caused poorer families to spend more, with 36% of families in the lowest pre-pandemic income bracket reporting an increase in household spending between July and September 2020.
Likely reasons for this increase are the cost of food, higher energy bills and homeschooling equipment while children are constantly at home.
Unfortunately, financial pressures are only part of why services like MADE are so in demand now and beyond the pandemic.
There’s still mental health, public health and mobility to be grappled with.