International Women’s Day: Bermondsey’s Kathleen Heather on community spirit during COVID-19

Katherine Johnston (08 March, 2021)

Kathleen was honoured with the Keib Thomas Active Citizen of the Year award

42872Kathleen Heather

This week, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we are profiling some of the remarkable women who have stepped up to support Southwark during the pandemic.

“Always was a community person”, Bermondsey’s Kathleen Heather will be well recognised by readers for her love of events from bringing bingo and tea dancing to the elderly, holding family fun days, to putting on Christmas and Halloween parties for local children.

“This all came to an end March 2020,” says the founder of Love North Southwark, a newly registered CIC made official in December last year. “So, we started the food bank with fresh food twice a week.” 

Soon she and other volunteers were serving up to 200 people every Tuesday and Friday in Bermondsey and expanded the project to deliver more than 130 food parcels every week

“We found we were helping people that had lost their jobs or were waiting on Universal Credit, and we also took on families who were victims of domestic violence families and homeless,” Kathleen says. 

“After a few different locations we are at the moment based at Cherry Garden Hall  in Jamaica road.

“We are hopeful that we will get our own space soon, so better things can be achieved.”

In a big step, she has helped set up a food pantry which opened on February 16, offering fifteen items of fresh fruit, veg, dairy, tinned food, breakfast items and some frozen products for a flat fee of £5. 

“We had fourteen on our first week and are expecting over 20 this week as more people get to hear about us,” she says.

Love North Southwark formally registered as a community interest company in December 2020, to help generate more funding. 

Kathleen says they operate on a ‘shoestring’ but despite the difficult economic climate the community continues to show its generous spirit.

“We also ran a toy drive for Christmas with an appeal to the Bermondsey people to buy a new toy for the children of Bermondsey to wake up with a Christmas present.

“We sent 103 Christmas presents out. This was one of my favourite times – to think we made so many families and their children happy that day.”

Kathleen was given the Keib Thomas Active Citizen of the year award in 2020. She says she is inspired by a very strong woman in her life – her 87-year-old mum. 

Despite working hard all her life, Kathleen says her mother did not receive a good pension – something she hopes is changing for the better.

“Women have come a long way over the last ten years,” she reflects. 

“They have better job opportunities and are gradually getting recognised.

“My other wish would be to have women road cleaners.

“I feel they would make a better job of keeping our street cleaner and recycling better – just my thoughts.”

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