Photo of Phoenix Repairs Service operatives volunteering during the coronavirus pandemic
Jason Nethercott
Thursday 7th May 2020 - 15:31

Supporting the community in a crisis

Jason Nethercott is a Project Manager in the Phoenix Repairs Service, and the coordinator of a team of volunteers from PRS during the coronavirus crisis. Here he explains why he got involved and what he and the team have achieved.

When the pandemic began, I thought to myself: what can we do to help people who might need us most?

From years of working in social housing as an electrician and now managing a team of repairs operatives, I’ve seen thousands of residents who were older or vulnerable and had no one living nearby who could help them. I thought to myself that they must be terrified. I know I would be.

I knew plenty of people in Phoenix would be up for helping and supporting those most in need. It’s part of what we do as our day jobs, and I thought it’d be a great opportunity to show how Phoenix as a resident-led organisation was also community-based. We’re in a really good position to do a lot of good in our community: since most of our homes are within a few miles of each other, supporting our residents directly is something we could do that wouldn’t be possible for others.

So, we swung into action. Between government advice on social distancing taking most non-essential repairs off the table and needing to save supplies for emergencies to keep residents safe, many of the Phoenix Repairs Service team weren’t able to carry out our day jobs.

I spoke to Amy Jeffrey, Phoenix’s Community Investment Manager who is also helping out at Voluntary Services Lewisham, and reached out for volunteers from the team – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Amy helped get our backgrounds checks done quickly and we were soon out on the road.

In the first two weeks, our volunteers made more than 100 food deliveries. It’s been really inspiring to volunteer. The operatives who have volunteered so far, whether with deliveries or on the phone, have been brilliant. And it’s been really appreciated by the community.

Mrs Sutherland, in her mid-eighties, told me: “Phoenix is the best ever!” just for checking in. That was really lovely to hear, but as far as I’m concerned it’s just what I can do and therefore what I should do.

The team has gone above and beyond. Their generosity has seen them volunteering on Good Friday to deliver 11 pallets of food to the Hope Centre foodbank in Forest Hill, deliver food and grocery parcels to individuals, and more.

They’ve helped deliver from Phoenix’s community hub, The Green Man, to Lewisham Local’s food store, and they’ve helped distribute food deliveries from The Green Man – FareShare’s Lewisham hub – to local community groups. That’s meant these small groups get much needed help and can remain socially distant instead of crowding around The Green Man.

Jason and 10 other operatives – at time of writing – have volunteered in the community. Thank you from all of us at Phoenix.