The Pepper Pot Centre: A day in the life during COVID-19 from Chair Howard Jeffrey MBE
Organisations in North Kensington are finding ways to adapt their services to respond to the needs of the community during the outbreak. Chair of the The Pepper Pot Centre Howard Jeffrey MBE, takes us through an eventful day in the life of the charity based in Ladbroke Grove.
The Pepper Pot Centre was founded in 1981 by Pansy Jeffrey to combat discrimination, isolation, depression and loneliness amongst the growing generation of Caribbean older people (50+) and to help them to take charge of their own lives. It also provides a demonstration of how communities can preserve their heritage.
The Team - Zenawi Tadesse, Linton Mitchell, Marica Edwards and Soki Kombo.
Start of the day
Marcus Woods a member volunteer arrives to open up the centre so our cleaner can start preparing the premises for the hectic day ahead.
Legendary Head Cook Marcia Edwards arrives for what must be more than her 2000 th shift at the kitchen. This is Marcia’s manor and she rules the roost!
Soon after arriving Marcia begins taking an inventory of our food and drink supplies. Food deliveries often arrive in the morning and it's her responsibility to be sure that all fruits and vegetables are fresh and that all the food, drink and condiments are being used before the expiry date.
By 9am the remainder of the kitchen staff arrive are now assembled. This is the time when the main preparation begins. Marcia supervises her kitchen staff as they prepare for the ‘Lunch Run’. This often involves making sauces, chopping and slicing all the vegetables and beginning to cook the dishes that take longer to prepare, such as the roasts and baked poultry, soups or desserts.
With Marcia at the helm the team glide around the kitchen like an F1 Mercedes car, the lunch preparations are progressing well and the kitchen is now full of the spicy aromas of the Caribbean! The staff at the Pepper Pot come from more than half a dozen Caribbean and African countries, so there’s lots of different accents in to be heard in the kitchen.
Right now Marcia is checking a fresh delivery from the charity Fareshare, that has pulled up to the Pepper Pot car park. It is her responsibility to make sure that the delivery includes exactly those items that were ordered, in the proper quantities. The Centre parking space is also a Fareshare hub, which means other charities also come a collect their deliveries during the ‘drop off’.
Linton Mitchell a mercurial 'Soundman' from the 70's takes the mini bus to the Playground Theatre Café & Bar on Latimer Road which is run by Rima Sams. Rima is working with local food banks and charities to make free meals for local elderly and vulnerable people.
The cafe is a buzz of activity and Linton collects enough food boxes for all the targeted Pepper Pot Centre members to have a good meal during the coming weekend as the centre is closed. On the way back, Linton pops into Big Ben to pick up some Caribbean provisions.
The food is cooked, packed and ready to go. Linton takes command of the operation, this is his domain and he is responsible for delivering the lunch boxes to our eagerly awaiting members in our iconic mini bus which was donated by the National Lottery Fund.
Linton and the team return victorious, mission accomplished for another day. The service provides a crucial support mechanism for a targeted group of members aged between 71-95 years old, who are not only isolated but are quite lonely and confused during this period of uncertainty. The daily delivery breaks the cycle of isolation and also helps these elderly members to reconnect with their beloved centre.
The lunch rush is over and so the team have time to take a lunch break. They all stop for a bite to eat and recharge their batteries. The short break also provides an opportunity for the team to relax, take stock, have some banter and reflect on the day so far.
Pepper Pot receptionist Ernest Lewis brings news to the kitchen that Andreia Miguel, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Food Referral Co-ordinator has just arrived with a range essential goodies for the kitchen including; rice, sugar, pasta, wipes, surgical gloves and gel etc. This announcement is welcomed by a chorus of cheers.
An eagerly awaited phone call is received by centre manager Zenawi Tadesse, yes the news is good, Brooke Dobbyn the Grants Manager for the Kensington & Chelsea Foundation has just confirmed that our small funding application has been successful and we will receive some immediate funding. The actual donations come from LMAX Group, a Global Financial Technology company who have been based in W11 for 10 years and who wanted to offer funding support for local elderly people during the crisis. The slogan on their website reads 'Thank you NHS - In this together’.
In the kitchen, the clean down has started. While the kitchen staff are cleaning up, Marcia and Zenawi take the time to plan and review the menu for the following week. They have the easy banter of two colleagues who have worked together for over a decade and take this time to place food and drink orders for the following week.
At the end of the day, Zenawi announces the good news about the funding to the whole team...a second chorus of cheers go out. There is no such thing as an average day at the Pepper Pot Centre. The work is so diverse but everyone who works at the centre has a similar attitude. They work hard, put in the hours in and really care about what they are doing. Though often tough at the Pepper Pot, it’s never dull. It has been a good day, but it starts all over again on Monday.
Thank you Howard and team for sharing this with us, for more information or to access services provided by The Pepper Pot Centre visit www.pepperpotcentre.org.uk.