The Bevy, in Hillside, Moulsecoomb, closed its doors to the public on March 17 last year as the country approached its first coronavirus lockdown. But just three days later the pub's team of volunteers and staff started the Bevy Meals on Wheels service.
The team decided it would cook and deliver hot meals three times a week to ensure those who had been attending the pub's dementia café and other lunch clubs did not go hungry. As well as being able to provide a dinner, the service meant the the team could check in on residents who then got to see a friendly face and had the chance to have a socially-distanced chat.
The Meals and Wheels service soon expanded and to date, the team has served more than 8,000 meals to vulnerable people in the community of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.
Now, the Bevy has been named one of just ten pubs from across the country to reach the finals of the Community Pub Hero Awards, organised by PubAid and the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group and sponsored by Matthew Clark. The competition was created to recognise the great work done by pubs since the first Covid-19 lockdown in March last year, who have gone above and beyond to support their local communities, despite facing uncertainty themselves.
Helen Jones, the Bevy Meals on Wheels co-ordinator, said: "We are absolutely delighted that we were in a position to do this. The great thing is we can make up our own rules to a certain extent, it's largely down to us as a community pub. This has been a big team effort."
The pub team has worked with local schools, churches, charities and community groups to identify who needed support getting hot food and with FareShare, to use ingredients that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
The team is now making 60-70 meals on each of the three days it runs the meals on wheels service and Helen said more than half the people they now provide meals for are families. Helen said the people they were helping was just the tip of the iceberg but those that have benefited are so grateful.
Just this week, Helen received a thank-you card from one of the families the pub had helped, which said the team was 'so special' and added, 'whatever happens, you've been there'.
Helen said staff and volunteers had also said thank you, for being given something to do, which had provided a focus during challenging times.
As well as the meals on wheels, the Bevy has hosted online quizzes to keep the community connected. The quizzes included British Sign Language interpretation to ensure they were accessible to Deaf BSL users in their own language. On the August Bank Holiday, the Bevy hosted a free family fun day offering socially-distanced arts crafts and fun for local children, and during school holidays, they have been providing hot lunches to families who receive free school meals.
Nationwide, 115 pubs entered the Community Pub Hero Awards, the majority nominated by their local MP. Entries were judged by a panel of industry experts and the overall Community Pub Hero will be announced later this spring.
PubAid co-founder Des O'Flanagan said: "Our heartfelt congratulations go to the Bevy. Landlords and landladies and their teams have offered invaluable support for communities during the pandemic, whether offering vital supplies for residents, cooking hot meals for the elderly or countering social isolation through online quizzes or chats. Choosing the ten finalists was a real challenge for the judges, as every pub who entered had a strong story to tell. Those who have reached the shortlist should be very proud of their achievement."
Richard Hayhoe, marketing director, Matthew Clark, added: "We were delighted to support this competition and pleased with the response from pubs and the many MPs who nominated a ‘hero' in their constituency. The fantastic work done by so many licensees and teams during the lockdowns and periods of restricted trading over the last year have provided a vital lifeline to countless people, and prove that pubs are genuinely a force for good in their communities."
Find out more about The Bevy, the meals on wheels project and the latest news on plans to reopen, visit www.thebevy.co.uk