15th December 2020
Breeze Palmer, parent and coach Avonmouth Old Boys Ladies
Lucy O’Brien, player, coach and safeguarding officer
Matt Williams, groundsman
The Palmer O’Brien Williams Twickenham Stadium (Twickenham Rugby Stadium)
Big-hearted members of a Bristol rugby club have had Twickenham rugby stadium named after them for a day after joining together to show extraordinary support for their local community during lockdown.
Avonmouth Old Boys Ladies RFC delivered hundreds of food parcels and hampers to those shielding, the vulnerable and frontline workers, including the NHS and the local fire brigade.
Club member, Breeze Palmer, says: "It began when we saw this post on Facebook with a little old lady in the toilet roll aisle without anything on the shelves. We just couldn't stop thinking about it - we just dreaded how people would be able to manage, when we were perfectly able and still couldn't do anything. We started off with the idea of a few boxes for the elderly in and around the local community as we all live close together. Then we put it out on Facebook - and we got inundated with donations of food.”
Fellow team member, Lucy O’Brien, says: "We just learnt as we went along, we started off with 50 toilet rolls and two crates of soup and we went from there - before we knew it, we were producing nutritionally-balanced boxes. Anybody that needed the support, we were there.
Breeze, who is both a parent and a player at the club, adds: "We had multiple girls delivering food parcels, we had parents that volunteered and drove for us, other parents printed off and delivered leaflets for us, up to 4,000, so that people - particularly the elderly - knew about us and that we were able to deliver for them.
"Our ward covered five different areas, it expanded and expanded, and anybody and everybody who could support us with donations, money or even just their time was invaluable.
"Loads of the mums were making up masks for us, or giving us PPE. All the stuff we were doing went on our social media pages - and we had so many people volunteering.
"We had so many people involved that we had to draw up a list and rotate it so that everybody could have a go with helping us.”
Avonmouth Old Boys Ladies RFC is just one of the many inspiring grassroots organisations that benefit from some of the £30m raised for good causes by National Lottery players every week. As their success grew the group started providing hampers for the emergency care teams in the ICU, visiting fire stations and paramedics.
"We had people making cakes to raise extra money and we let off 50 balloons one night for those people who had lost family members during Covid-19 who couldn't even have a funeral.
"It was completely community-based, we didn't have any funding from anyone.
"We helped people fill out forms as well - a lot of people who needed to register for food parcels hadn't been online or even had a mobile phone before.”
Another member of the team, groundsman Matt Williams, says: "We did a lot during the pandemic, at one point we hit 40-50 deliveries a day - without people volunteering and helping, we wouldn't have been able to do all that. We also handed out certificates of achievement for kids, of which we did nearly 800, hand-posted to them to try and cheer them up a little bit. Over Easter, a lot of parents couldn't get out and about so we delivered 400 Easter eggs and sorted out for some computers for kids who need help to complete their homework during this time.”
Breeze, Lucy and Matt will be celebrated this week as Twickenham Rugby Stadium is renamed in their honour O’Brien Palmer Williams Twickenham– the dedication is in celebration of their work supporting the most vulnerable in communities during the coronavirus crisis.
Breeze says: "For a small place like us, and our little club, to be picked up and recognised is huge - we're never usually that lucky. We didn't expect anything like this at all, so it's nice to know that normal general people, who love rugby, can achieve and make things happen.”
Player, coach and safeguarding officer Lucy adds: "Without that first amount of National Lottery funding we had, none of this would have been possible.
"We could never have expanded, we wouldn't have been able to have our ladies team or as many juniors as we do now. In turn, that has helped us be there now for people.
"We were highly appreciative then of the National Lottery funding, and now it's got us to where we are now.
"Without people buying The National Lottery tickets, this would never have happened. We wouldn't have been able to do what we've done during the pandemic without that.”