City food parcel charity sets up pioneering community laundry

A Nottingham food bank which helped thousands of people during the pandemic is extending its services to include a free community launderette.  

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In what is believed to be a first for the city, the Mesopotamia charity is creating the facility at its shop in Basford, with financial support through social impact company Castle Cavendish.  

The charity recognised that the increased focus on hygiene during the Covid crisis had left many people in a vulnerable position, struggling to afford to use a launderette and not having the means to wash clothes and bedding in their own homes.  

Rachel Miller, Mesopotamia’s founder and director, had always wanted to set up a community laundry but the charity lacked the funding needed.  

It has now been helped by local charitable foundation Castle Cavendish, which distributes Nottingham City Council’s area-based grants to support community and voluntary sector organisations across nine areas of the city. It provided a grant to kickstart the project.  

Rachel – who set up the charity in 2015 – said, “We’re so excited for our launderette project to come to fruition and provide a much-needed facility to the local community. 

“With the grant we have ordered a commercial machine that does a full wash in 16 minutes, meaning we will have the facilities to provide a maximum number of washes in a day.  

“This has never been done before in Nottingham and we’re so pleased that with the funding and ongoing support from the team at Castle Cavendish it’s now set to become a reality.”  

As well as food parcel deliveries, Mesopotamia has a community kitchen and gives assistance with clothing and household items.   

People who use the food bank will also be able to book a time slot to go to the shop, in Valley Road, and wash and dry their clothes for free.   

Rachel added: “Whilst people are waiting for their clothes they can use the food bank, have a cup of tea or even volunteer an hour of their time in our charity shop to give back.”   

When the country went into lockdown in March 2020, Rachel and the volunteers at Mesopotamia saw a massive rise in demand for food parcels to be delivered. Since then, they have helped more than 11,000 people by delivering a week’s worth of food to their homes.  

“Through Covid the need for our services quadrupled – if not more – but our income stopped because we had to close our charity shop and there were no means of fundraising,” explained Rachel. “People who never thought they would need the help of the charity came to us because they were really struggling.”    

The charity suffered a blow last November when their delivery van was written off in an accident and there was a shortfall in the insurance pay-out. Castle Cavendish was able to provide a grant to ensure the service got back on the road.    

“The van is the heart of our charity, and I can’t put a figure on the number of people that this contribution has helped – day in, day out,” said Rachel.    

Their successful collaboration highlights the important work that the company does to help improve lives in some of Nottingham’s most disadvantaged areas. 

Castle Cavendish is currently distributing £455,000 on behalf of the city council over the next year to up to 50 organisations in areas such as Basford, Berridge, Sherwood, Hyson Green, Radford, Lenton and The Meadows.  

Among the community work being supported is play and youth provision, employment and training schemes, holiday activities and wider support to help communities to reconnect post-pandemic.  

Van Henry, Castle Cavendish’s area partnerships manager, said it was delighted to be able to support the Mesopotamia charity with grant funding. 

“The sheer scale of the number of people they have reached and how embedded they are in the local area has been incredibly important,” he said. “We wanted to support them in any way we could.” 

Dave Brennan, chief executive of the company, which has been involved in the area grants process since 2013, added: “We are providing support for the voluntary community sector at a very critical and challenging time and it’s also important to look at reconnecting communities where the connections have perhaps broken down because of the pandemic.”  

Nottingham Local News