The Harlequin theatre in Redhill has taken on a new function during the coronavirus emergency – a base to support residents in need.
Reigate & Banstead Borough Council is using the theatre as a centre to distribute food, medicines and essential supplies to high risk and vulnerable residents that need to stay at home, and those in severe financial need.
Council staff, redeployed from other roles, and community volunteers are working amid shelving that has been filled with food and essentials.
The centre, which is closed to the public, is performing three roles:
- supplying local foodbanks who are being invited to come and stock up, as they would at a supermarket
- preparing emergency welfare packs for vulnerable residents, identified through the council’s various frontline support services
- providing hot meals for those that would otherwise go without, cooked by the theatre’s and other catering staff
Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are working with the centre to fill its shelves, as well as traders from Redhill Market who are providing fresh produce direct from their suppliers. Discussions are also taking place with other food suppliers, and with local restaurants that have closed during the coronavirus shut-down.
Council staff and vehicles have been redeployed to make deliveries, along with volunteer drivers.
The council is also co-ordinating outgoing welfare calls to vulnerable residents and those who have been in contact needing urgent support.
Cllr Mark Brunt, leader of the council, said: “In these challenging and uncertain times, our number one priority is to help those in need in our community.
“Many of our vulnerable residents will have found their regular support networks drastically changed and reduced over the past week, and we have been working very hard to quickly put in place this essential provision.
“We are redeploying staff from other parts of the Council so we can prioritise this support. The in-depth knowledge of our communities that our teams possess, and their dedication to support them in this time of need, puts us in an ideal position to be able to deliver this vital support.
“It really is fantastic to see such community spirit in our borough, with so many staff and local volunteers wanting to help support those in need.”
The council says it has a close relationship with local food banks, and is working with Voluntary Action Reigate & Banstead (VARB) to mobilise and coordinate the volunteer response to the coronavirus.
Nina Porter, chief officer at VARB, said: “We are working with existing volunteer organisations, and with the many new groups that are establishing to help our local community, to place volunteers where they are needed so that vulnerable people in our community get the right support.
“We are also helping groups to get the information and guidance they need to run safely and efficiently. We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of local people who have put themselves forward to help; we are enormously grateful.”
Anyone interested in volunteering can do so via the VARB website.
The centre is not open to the public: anyone needing support is urged to contact Surrey County Council’s Community Helpline on 0300 200 1008 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), which can help direct them to sources of support.
The Harlequin is one of 11 local community support hubs across Surrey’s boroughs and districts, working with Surrey County Council’s central support hub.
The theatre is owned by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, and closed its doors earlier this month in accordance with Government guidelines.