Brixton’s people and businesses have, once again, come together to help those who are lonely and in need at the worst time of year to be so.
From individual donations to gifts from large multinationals, Brixton is seeing the real spirit of the season at work.
So many organisations – from the Brixton Soup Kitchen to the Norwood and Brixton Food Bank – are now working to help people that it is unfair to single out any one of them.
But the experience of a relative newcomer to the long list of Brixton’s charities reveals just how special our community is. Compliments of the House (COTH) has a simple model: it collects surplus food from outlets prepared to help and distributes it to people in need with the minimum of fuss.
As well as keeping perfectly good food out of landfill, COTH offers people it helps a back-to-work scheme.
Local traders and volunteers have been mucking in to make sure COTH new premises at 2a Market Row, courtesy of owners Hondo Enterprises, is spruced up for the festive season. Brewers decorators centre on Acre Lane supplied the materials and paint and volunteers provided the muscle.
Pop Brixton has also partnered with COTH. The cultural space and its members have pledged to provide 150 meals for those in need during the coldest months of the year, starting with a special event on Wednesday 18 December. Share a Slice, Other Side Fried and Stud Muffin will be providing complimentary meals for vulnerable people in their South London network.
The Baked Bean Company, a group which runs regular DJ workshops at Pop Brixton for people with learning disabilities provided music at the launch.
Sinéad Browne, founder of Compliments of the House: “Pop Brixton and Make Shift (POp’s charitable wing) will always be a part of our extended family as they were one of the first to take a chance on our brand new initiative that had only been running a matter of weeks and to go out on a limb and to give us a home earlier this year when we were homeless.”
COTH distributes food to those in need for from 7 to 9pm on weekdays
Sinead says: “We welcome anyone who is need of a meal or support. We are currently partnered with 30 local businesses and run a Back to Work scheme that supports our guests back into employment.
“Once they’re ready to go back to work, we arrange 12-week, part-time placements for them with our food partners.
“If it’s a good fit, it can turn into a permanent job. We call this process a circle of efficiency.”
Sinead’s charity has no grant funding as yet and she has been using her own resources to get it off the ground.
Once people and businesses are involved, they decide to offer more than just waste food.
Neighbouring businesses have been preparing food especially for the guests of COTH, for instance.
Compliments of the House has plans to take the model outside Brixton and to create a loyalty card that will give the card owner discounts and the charity a percentage when used at participating outlets.
Among the Brixton businesses large and small that make COTH possible are:
Federation Coffee Sainsbury’s Marks & Spencer
Philips fruit and yeg Santafereno El Rancho la Lalo
Jeff the ChefOne Love Cafe Franca Manca Mezze Me
Agile Rabbit Greggs Ms Cupcake L’Atelier
First Choice Bakery Honest Burger Costa Coffee
Champagne and Fromage Healthy Eaters Share a Slice
And anyone can join in. “We always need volunteers who are willing to donate some of their time to help with office admin, fundraising or to help us by collecting, sorting and redistributing the food we supply to our guests,” says Sinead. “We also have befriending roles as many of our guests just need a chat.”
To find out more about volunteering, email email@example.com
Donate on Justgiving: www.justgiving.com/complimentsofthehouse