2020. What a year. There have been plenty of challenges and triumphs amidst a global pandemic. It certainly hadn't been the year we thought it would be, but we've got plenty to report.
At the start of the year, we rebranded Bar Zero to 131 The Venue, a space that has now hosted face-to-face groups, a few community events, and more recently, its first wreath workshop! It also acted as a makeshift office for our community team when social distancing became the norm. Just after 131 The Venue rebrand, we announced that we'd taken over the cafe in The Stages Academy, forming Fork in the Road - Stage One.
We launched our new Mission, Vision and Values, displayed in some amazing infographics designed by Michelle from Creative Pop and Creative Youth Opportunities, an organisation that supports young people to create stronger communities AND create art.
Then in March 2020, COVID hit. Fork in the Road - Stage One became a hub for preparing and distributing meals to those who needed support and/or were shielding to keep themselves safe. Thanks to the amazing volunteers from our teams, we distributed more than 100 meals. Within the service, the Recovery Connections teams across Middlesbrough, Gateshead and Stockton turned a timetable that was attended in-person to one that was entirely virtual and available to attend on Zoom. A fortnight into lockdown, this timetable was launched and at the time we were one of the only organisations in the local area to be offering this type of support. For members of the community who didn't have access to technology, we were kindly gifted mobile phones and tablets by local organisations such as Edberts House, Gateshead so that support was available to all who needed it.
2 months later, in May, we launched our FOURTH social enterprise business, Bloom Florists! Plans to open the physical shop naturally were postponed due to issues with suppliers and lockdown 1.0, but the team thrived selling products online and have built a community with more than 40 repeat customers!
Flash forward to September, and we were back to Recovery Month. We were looking forward to attending the FAVOR UK Recovery Walk in Newcastle, but due to the pandemic, this was postponed. Never a team to cower in the face of adversity, we planned a virtual recovery walk instead and over 30 people took part and shared their 'I walk for recovery month because...' At the end of the day when the team logged into a Zoom call, the joy in the virtual room was huge and we all felt on top of the world.
Then came Alcohol Awareness Week in November, where in place of our usual celebration event we again headed to Zoom - the event was well attended and it was good to see some familiar and new faces. Halloween was also a roaring success, with a Thriller dance group taking place online, and performed during the virtual Halloween party! Work on the community garden this year has also gone excellently, read more about that here.
So, what's coming up in 2021? Hopefully some normality, we hear you say. Absolutely, we couldn't agree more. But for now, we'll just keep on staying safe and weathering the storm. Earlier in December, we managed to secure a grant from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust that will go towards developing the Recovery Connections on Campus work with young people in the New Year. More community garden work is of course certain, with the chicken coop nearly finished we hope to have some new feathered residents in the near future! There will be a virtual timetable revamp, keeping your favourites and introducing some new groups, including some face-to-face (if guidelines allow). We'll also be officially launching our Trauma Support programme, you can find out more about this by contacting your keyworker.
Finally, thank you so much to everyone who has supported us this year. Whether you work within the team, are on our board of trustees, a volunteer with us, have shared a post, offered us technical support - we see you and we thank you. We couldn't have done it without you.
The Recovery Connections Team x