Spotlight on Amanda Nicholson

by Handy Mag
Published: Updated:

Premises Manager at Haxby Memorial Hall

Amanda Nicholson

Q What is the history of the Memorial Hall, and who runs it?

The Memorial Hall is a registered charity, held in trust for the village of Haxby. The building was originally a school in 1876. The school closed in 1954 and the site was bought by the local council where it began its life as a village hall, with the charitable trust being formed in 1977. The charity is currently run by 5 trustees. I work closely with the trustees and look after the day-to-day running. The Trustees are ‘hands on’ and regularly help out at our many fundraising events.

Q What facilities does the Hall offer for the local community?

The main hall and the meeting room are available to hire, so we can offer a space for meetings, parties, events etc. We also have two office spaces, rented to Larch Music and Haxby Town Council. We have various regular bookings throughout the week; baby groups, band practices, dance groups, exercise groups and more. The kitchen has recently been upgraded to a fully-fitted catering kitchen which is available to users. Our weekly ‘Meet and Eat’ sessions, an initiative by Natalie Greaves, our Local Area Co-ordinator, are open to all including those attending the foodshare, and also support carers by giving them a break, with a chance to catch up with others. Natalie is based in our area to support residents who may need help and advice, to keep them to stay safe, well, independent and connected to the local community.

Q Tell us more about the Haxby Food Share Project and how this is helping local people?

At the start of the pandemic, we set up as a ‘community hub’ with York City Council, offering help to individuals and families who needed support during a really challenging time. The Food Share Project was formed to provide anyone who was struggling to purchase food, the option to access free food supplied by our wonderful local businesses. Sadly, we continue to have many people who need help from the foodbank—and numbers are increasing.

Food is gifted by the local community, local shops and businesses. Anybody that needs help is very welcome to come and get some food; no referral is needed. We are here to help, and just ask that you take what you need and be mindful of others. I am amazed by the continuing support from our local area. We are very grateful to receive regular donations from many local businesses, including The Parvin, Sainsburys Haxby, Haxby Bakehouse, to name a few. Haxby Co-op have also been very supportive by naming us as their chosen charity in their Co-op Local Community Fund. We are supported by Co-op FareShare and the Neighbourly Scheme. The Co-op donates twice a week and has a drop off point in store.

The Food Share is open every Wednesday from 11am til 1.30pm, and 12pm til 2pm on Fridays. We have teas and coffees on the go too, so people can get together and chat. We don’t just provide for the people in Haxby, we are here to provide support for nearby areas including Wigginton, Stockton on the Forest, Beninbrough, Strensall, Flaxton, Huntington and New Earswick.

Q What should people do if they want to help donate to the Food Share project?

We actually don’t just provide free food, we can also offer cleaning materials, clothing, books and more. We have boxes at the main entrance to the memorial hall available for dropping off items. Or please get in touch by email to foodshare@haxbymemorialhall.co.uk or call 07989 193758.

Q Are you involved in any other initiatives and how can people get involved?

We are operating as a warm hub where people can pop in for a cuppa and a chat. Natalie, local area co-ordinator, is available and works alongside other agencies to help and provide reassurance and support; for example the local community police officer has recently paid us a visit to reassure our older residents what is being done to tackle some of the antisocial issues that Haxby has been experiencing recently.

As a community hub, we do not want people to be struggling indefinitely and relying on foodbanks, so it is proving very helpful to have other support agencies working alongside us to help support people in making a better life for themselves.

Our ‘Meet and Eat’ group on Fridays is a very welcome break from everyday life and is a warm place which is accessible for anyone. We can also help with food poverty by offering a lovely home cooked meal for a small donation of up to £5. (Save your place and pre-book a meal by calling Natalie on 07957 455359 or Amanda on 07989 193758).

Q The Memorial Hall is a registered charity, do you receive grants or funding? And if not, how do you maintain the upkeep of the Hall and how can the local community get involved?

Yes, we were very lucky to receive a ward grant this year from the City of York Council. When the government decided to stop access to free school meals over the summer holidays, many local councils decided that they would try to allocate funds to help bridge the gap to ensure children didn’t go hungry. The funding was a life saver and we managed to lead regular weekly sessions for families over the summer. And it wasn’t just food. We were able to organise a series of events, entertainment, sports, and animal experiences to put smiles on faces!. The local schools have also been supportive and get involved where they can. We managed to provide food and a Santa visit over the Christmas holidays too.

Q Do you need more volunteers or trustees?

During the pandemic we had around 300 volunteers. Many have stayed with us and help as much as they can, but we always have room for more! Volunteers can give as much or as little time as they can and we couldn’t do what we do without them. If anyone is interested in being a Trustee too, then we would love to hear from you.

Q What is next for the Memorial Hall?

Our overall purpose is to help the community. We are working hard to make sure people have access to the right help and support so that they can find ways of dealing with the challenges facing them.
We hope to continue to upgrade our facilities to benefit the local area; we have added a new commercial kitchen, updated the meeting room and upgraded the garden area to include a pergola and a larger patio area. We hope next to replace the windows, paint the inside of the hall and upgrade the toilet facilities.

In the future, we’d like to open a community fridge, so that people who maybe don’t think they need a foodbank, can come and take something that they might need if we have a surplus. Anyone can find themselves in a situation where they need help—and what better way to find help than within your own local community. It would also be very helpful to create a community store alongside the foodbank—you could pay a small amount per month to get the items that you really need.

We will be here as long as people need us. There is much more we can do, and a lot of hard work ahead, but we are committed to supporting our local area.

Quick Q&A

Q Owl or Lark? Lark

Q What did you want to be when you grew up? Hairdresser, vet or zoologist

Q What makes you happy? Family

Q Who would you have at a dinner party and why? Bob Marley – I’m a massive reggae fan!

Q Proudest moment? Of course, having my children. I enjoy helping people. I don’t need awards or recognition; I just want to feel that I have made a difference.

Q Who is your inspiration and why? My mum. She would always help those in her community where she could. She used to arrange jumble sales for people who didn’t have any money.

Q I couldn’t get through the weekend without…A dog walk.

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