Young Birmingham couple going extra mile for City’s most vulnerable citizens

A local couple have literally been going the extra mile to get essential goods to the City’s most vulnerable citizens throughout the Covid-19 lockdown. Stephen Palmer and his girlfriend Sapphire Poles (both 20) have been purchasing food and household items from a local wholesalers, selling them on at cost price and delivering the goods on a same day basis.

Back in March 2020 when Covid-19 cases were rising, panic was setting in and shops were being stripped of many essential goods, the couple were at a local wholesalers stocking up on sweets for a craft fare they were attending. They noticed that whilst toilet rolls, sanitisers and Calpol were becoming almost impossible to obtain on the High Street, these and other items were still plentiful at Bestway wholesalers. They therefore returned to stock up so that they could offer these essential items (at cost price) to local people in Hall Green where they live.

When the lockdown happened they turned their focus to serving only the elderly, vulnerable and NHS workers. The need was so great however that they expanded their service to other communities in South Birmingham and Solihull. They spread the word via a Facebook page as well as by delivering 20,000 leaflets to reach those who were most isolated and vulnerable.

The couple were running this operation around their full time jobs – Stephen as an IT specialist and Sapphire in a school as a play leader – starting at around 4pm and often working until midnight or beyond. They were shopping, taking orders, picking, packing and delivering all from their own home.

The couple continued to fund the service themselves and were initially unwilling to accept financial support, but the community persuaded them this was neither sustainable nor fair to them.

Running a telephone ordering service was becoming more and more difficult, so Stephen decided it was time to go online. Using his technical know-how he set up an online shop at minimal cost, as hosting was donated by local company Guru Cloud. Other local businesses also helped the couple take the service to the next level. Arbury Peugeot in Bromsgrove donated a van (now fully branded using magnetic signage), and a local shop owner (who was prevented from opening a new business due to the lockdown) donated temporary use of a secure unit so that they could organise their stock, expand their product lines and function more efficiently in a bigger space.

They have also forged links and partnerships with local groups such as Highfield Hall Community Centre and The Real Junk Food Project, as well as supermarkets like Sainsbury’s who have donated their surplus food. The couple use these donations to create food parcels for people who can’t afford food or essential items. By mid May they were making 50-100 deliveries a day,  stocking more than 100 products and they had helped more than 4,500 people.

The 60+, 5* Trustpilot reviews serve as testament to the impact these young people are having on the lives of the most vulnerable and their families. Their customers say they appreciate the friendliness, responsiveness and reliability of the service as well as the value for money it offers . Here’s just a few of the comments made:

“Thankyou to Stephen and sapphire for our delivery, I have to shield as health issues make me vulnerable so to be able to get things from these lovely people minimises the amount my wife has to leave in turn helping me.”

“Perfect delivery service. I’m working long hours with the NHS so it was great to be able to rest and have essentials delivered! Thankyou so much.”

“This service is a lifeline for those who cannot go out and shop for themselves. My parents are in their late 70s and 80s and I struggled to get some essentials for them but after only a day from ordering they received the goods. The delivery person was patient as my mum waved from the window and he waited until the shopping was taken indoors. My parents just couldn’t believe there were people nearby who could help them. Thank you so much.”

What next?

Stephen says that he now wants to make this a permanent service, and he has set up a Just Giving crowdfunding appeal to raise £5,000 which will allow them to get established and apply for charity status.

“We are looking to register as a charity to continue our work. Even when this pandemic has calmed down there will still be a call for our type of help. We have witnessed hundreds of vulnerable and elderly people who get little to no help at all, and they trust us to provide the service they need. We have been informed time after time that we have saved a life with both the essentials and food parcels. We are sometimes the only people that our customers see, so it lifts their spirits a little to be able to have a quick chat and see a friendly, helpful face.

“It isn’t just about providing essentials, it is also making sure we keep mental health under control and keeping the community spirit high at all times.

“When COVID-19 is over, we need to be able to run a van, pay for storage space, as well as any other costs we may incur.”

If you are elderly or vulnerable, live in the South of Birmingham and would like to place an order with Stephen, please visit:
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