RESIDENTS across Oxford have said ‘thank you’ to a community hero who has been working around the clock from her kitchen-table to make sure nobody stuck inside goes without food. 

Despite being forced into lockdown herself, 72-year-old Sue Holden has helped deliver 170 food parcels to families who can’t afford to eat and elderly people who can’t go shopping. 

On Tuesday she worked from 7am until 11pm answering 122 phone calls, 48 texts and 21 emails from people who needed help. 

Read also: Top 10 coronavirus fundriasers 

Ms Holden is the head of Barton Community Association, and for the past two weeks shops with surplus food and organisations set up for vulnerable people, such as SOFEA Community Larder in Didcot and Oxford Food Bank, have been donating food to the group. 

At its main base on Underhill Circus, the food is then divvied up into boxes ready to be delivered to people across the city by helpful and healthy volunteers.

From her home, Ms Holden has organised it all, from the food storage to the delivery timetable. 

She even spends her ‘spare time’ calling back the residents to check that they are okay.
Bicester Advertiser:
Sue Holden works from home
Read more: coronavirus latest in Oxford

Bicester Advertiser:

Her right-hand woman on the ground Tanya Field said: “Sue has been on the phone speaking to people who mostly need food assistance and are stuck in isolation and are struggling to go shopping. 

“It is absolutely brilliant. 

"The rest of us have been getting food parcels out: we delivered 150 on Tuesday and Sue pulled out all the stops to make the most of her network. It’s been a herculean effort.” 

Bicester Advertiser:

Mike Rowley, a city councillor for the area, added that Ms Holden was a ‘force of nature’ who has been working ‘flat out’ to bring people together ‘virtually’. 

He said: “The Barton Community Association really are to be congratulated: they have been flat-out working, ordering and delivering food parcels and making sure that vulnerable people self-isolating have everything they need. 

"I mean Sue Holden has been working flat-out more than 12 hours a day answering calls at 11pm from people that are hungry and have nothing else to eat. 

Bicester Advertiser:

“Sue has been stuck at home but has been giving up most of her waking hours to coordinate the efforts of those who are more able. 

"She’s been finding out who’s vulnerable, passing information and helping sort out the delivery of food parcels – bringing people together virtually.”

He added: “Barton Community Centre are a treasure. Sue is a force of nature and we are very thankful that we have got her. Her dynamo driving the efforts of all the volunteers. As great as the volunteers are, they couldn’t do it without Sue.

“At the end of this we’re going to have more heroes than we can count.” 
Read more: Prince Harry reopens Barton centre

Last week boxes and parcels had long-life staples like tins of soup and beans as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. 

On a Barton Facebook group, one family showed the butternut squash, potato and spinach dish that they had made using the free food. 

Ms Holden, who was awarded an MBE for her community work in 2008, said that she had been planning to give the kitchen a proper clean, but that plan went out the window when Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered those over the age of 70 into isolation. 

She said: “It’s quite funny, I went into self-isolation with all these plans to tidy and clean the kitchen cupboards, but in actual fact I’ve done nothing towards that. 

"Taking this on board and getting it organised has been more than a full-time job – and that’s what we thrive on in Barton.

“It’s really surprising what you can do from a kitchen table – some days I haven’t moved from breakfast because its been a case of taking phone calls one after another, logging needs, compiling all the details into a reasonable list. We’ve got to make sure we can sustain this for the foreseeable future.”

Bicester Advertiser:

She added: “I took a call at 10.50pm one night from a person who was fragile and basically needed to access food, I don’t think they knew what time of the day it was. 

"On the back of this I’ve been doing follow-up calls to make sure people are okay – if they have any other needs like prescriptions that need collecting, I had one lady who needed the Oxford Mail – it wasn’t just a case of dumping food, ringing the doorbell and stepping back, it’s making sure that everything else is taken care of too. 

“Obviously we can’t deal with most of it, but we can sign post people or let organisations know. We’re trying to a little bit more than just giving people food.  It’s the role I can play whilst I’m sat indoors.” 

She also explained that there had been such a high demand for the food that volunteers were driving the packages to Northway, Headington, Cowley, Blackbird Leys, Littlemore and even families in Abingdon

Anybody who desperately needs food should go to Barton Community Association on Tuesday between 2.30pm and 4.30pm.   

The association will be asking for a donation of £2 for all the food, which includes pasta.

The money will be donated to the charities to get more food.