The Northampton Town Community Trust was awarded the Community Project of the Year award at the 2021 Northamptonshire Business Excellence Awards, hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald, last week.
The judging panel, headed by Nick Hewer from BBC TV's The Apprentice and Channel 4's Countdown, chose the Northampton Town Community Trust's Tackling Loneliness project as the Community project of the Year in Northamptonshire, sponsored by dbfb Communications.
A recent study from the Office National Statistics (ONS) showed that 2.6 million adults reported that they felt lonely “often” or “always” whilst 7.4 million adults reported their well-being had been affected through their having felt lonely in the past seven days.
Within just two days of the first lockdown, the Northampton Town FC Community Trust developed a brand-new project set out to support older fans who may be at risk of loneliness or isolation brought about by COVID and the government lockdowns. They were passionate about making sure our community stayed connected.
The project has now been running for over a year and a half, becoming a key support mechanism for community members throughout three lockdowns and beyond. Initially their small staff team conducted phone call check ins contacting NTFC fans and season ticket holders, this quickly expanded to also receiving referrals from local community members, other organisations, and social prescribers.
Over 1200 people were contacted. After initial calls, participants were triaged into the level of support they required. The project has included staff and volunteers providing a range of support including befriending phone calls, online quizzes and social groups, pen-pal schemes and socially distanced ‘garden gate’ conversations for those who need this vital support the most. In addition, the Community Trust were able to use the unique assets of the football club to support older Cobblers fans to provide hope, positivity, and cheer via special phone calls from Northampton Town first team players, chairman and the manager, as well as taking the play off final trophy out to fans across the community.
The project has been a lifeline for many providing regular meaningful contact and check ins to make sure those most in need are supported. The project has kept people connected and positively improved older adults’ wellbeing and mental health.
Michael is one of those supported by the project and his story can be viewed here:
"We are all delighted that the club's work in the community has once again been recognised for the huge difference it makes to the lives of the people of Northamptonshire," said Chairman Kelvin Thomas.
"I would like to thank all involved for their work and we are very proud of not just the staff involved but the work they do and those we support. I personally made phone calls during this project so I know first-hand what people were going through and how this work impacted.
"As a club we are embedded in the community of Northamptonshire and it is fantastic to see the work recognised in this way. We are very proud."
Phill Smith, CEO of the Northampton Town Community Trust added: "We run a wide and varied programme of projects to support the local community and we are very proud of each and every programme, but Project Loneliness was something we were particularly passionate about during the lockdowns and the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I know what a difference the power of the club can make to those who we help but to see that work recognised by an esteemed judging panel is both humbling and rewarding.
"We don't carry out this work for the awards, we do what we do to help as many people as possible, but I am delighted for the staff when they are recognised for their work."
The project continues to this day with regular phone calls being made. Now that restrictions have eased the key focus is now on supporting older adults to re-integrate within the community helping them to connect with others by providing activities and opportunities for people to get together in person. This includes welcoming many of the regular callers to Sixfields to meet each other face to face too via the Extra Time Hubs project.
For more details about the Northampton Town Community Trust, please visit ntfccommunity.co.uk