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North East Connected

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Marks & Spencer Volunteers Make it Matter in Newcastle


Jun 9, 2017

On Make it Matter Day (1 June), Marks & Spencer has launched a ground-breaking commitment to support 1,000 communities across the UK, help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives and be a zero waste business. This will see M&S colleagues dedicating one million hours of community volunteering by 2025, to support local initiatives and projects that really matter in the communities that M&S serves.

Colleagues from M&S Metrocentre will kick start the volunteering in Newcastle during National Volunteers Week (1-7 June) by helping local project, Connect 25 – an arm of The KC Foundation foodbank which aims to reduce child food poverty in the Byker area – create an interactive space for children to visit during the summer holidays. Newcastle has some of the busiest foodbanks in the UK, and low-income families rely on them the most.

Whilst most people look forward to the holiday period, for those struggling to make ends meet, it can mean added financial pressure when children miss out on free school meals. The holiday club, put on by Connect 25, would provide vital access to food and drink for young people, as well as a safe place to play. M&S Metrocentre chose Connect 25 as its ‘Charity of the Year’ in April and also donates surplus food to the charity, which helps to provide snacks and meals, food parcels and cooking lessons for local children throughout the year.

The 11-strong team of volunteers from M&S Metrocentre will also create a vibrant, stress free environment for the children in a space that The King’s Castle Church recently gifted to the project. As well as painting murals, the M&S team will furnish it with bean bags, toys and games, arts and crafts, and books for the young visitors to enjoy during the summer months and beyond

Matti Letsie who runs Connect 25 in Byker alongside Bola Oluwatula said: “Our mission is to reduce the level of food poverty locally, and the long-term impact this has on local children. We don’t want them to grow up thinking that hunger is the norm.

“Support from the M&S Metrocentre team, both in terms of surplus food donations and volunteer time to decorate the space, will make a huge difference. It’s really important for us to create a friendly, exciting environment for the kids. As well as access to food, we want to give them a safe place to play with friends, learn new skills and stay out of trouble. As adults, some of our happiest childhood memories are around food, and we want Byker kids to have this too.”

Nationwide, employees in every M&S store will join their colleagues in Newcastle during National Volunteers Week by helping to transform local projects that make a real difference. In total, over 7,000 colleagues will support 700 community projects across the breadth of the UK.  Make it Matter is part of the recently launched M&S campaign ‘#SpenditWell’, which is about inspiring people to make every moment special by focusing on the experiences, people and things that really matter in life. All 80,000 M&S employees are supported with paid volunteering days.

Helen Cowie, Store Manager, M&S Metrocentre said: “We’re really excited to be coming together to support Connect 25 and help realise the dream of providing a holiday club this summer. As our Charity of the Year and a much needed resource in our local area it’s a cause we are delighted to be able to support. Volunteering can make a profound difference to the communities in which we live, work and play – we believe that lots of the small actions from lots of people, can collectively have a huge impact. We can’t wait to get started.”

Kristen Stephenson, Volunteering Development Manager, National Council of Voluntary Organisations commented: “A lack of time is the number one barrier to volunteering and so it’s great to see businesses like M&S supporting staff with time off to make a difference to causes that matter to their local communities.

“Volunteers make a huge difference around the country, whether it’s running sports clubs, saving lives, looking after our heritage or supporting those in need, the UK’s volunteers are an inspiration and it’s important we recognise their work.

“Volunteers’ Week is always a fantastic opportunity to say thank you to the millions of people who make a difference in our communities


Volunteering in Numbers

·        One quarter (25%) of people in the North East volunteer at least once a month

·        46% of people in the North East volunteer at least once a year

·        16-25 year olds are more likely to volunteer (44%)

·        50-64 year olds volunteer the least (29%)


You can find out more about volunteer opportunities near you by visiting

o   www.neighbourly.com/mandsvolunteer

o   Royal Voluntary Service: https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/

o   National Volunteers Week: http://volunteersweek.org/

For more information on Plan A, visit www.marksandspencer.com/s/making-a-difference.

By Emily