Clarie Lewis is the Support Centre Manager for Christian Community Action. She reflects on how CCA have adapted their services in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and her path into a job she loves.
Tell us about Christian Community Action…
CCA provides furniture to people on benefits and low income families. Before the coronavirus lockdown, the Support Centre opened to customers, clients and telephone queries at 10am. Every morning before we started work, we would gather to take part in our Daily Devotions. This was a time of prayer, discussion and sharing.
Clients came in and registered with proof of benefits and ordered the furniture that they needed. Not all our clients came in to order furniture. Some came in for provisions; bedding and kitchen packs (which are made up in the centre ready for distribution); help with signposting; help with getting white goods and more. The Support Centre also provided a place of safety and comfort for those who want to talk and be listened to. We received calls from agencies requesting our support, such as Launchpad, Reading Borough Council, Brighter Futures for children and more.
How have you adapted your services in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
Today, life during Covid-19 is so different. We are now an emergency support team. Now we can only provide limited furniture, beds, bedding packs, provisions and small electrical items (if donated). There is no face-to-face contact. I miss the children playing in the Support Centre while their parents get the support they need. I even miss the mess they leave. I miss the noise of the shop next door and the daily hustle and bustle of life.
Describe a typical working day for you at the moment…
My day involves, getting out of bed and travelling the short distance downstairs. I miss the drive into work. I miss switching off the lights, locking the door and leaving the day behind. Now my work and home life are joined and there is no door to close. When we receive the call to help, the order is sent and the warehouse contacts our driver to deliver the vital items to the client. This reminds me of the wonderful team that I work with. During this time it has brought us even closer together; we are able to pray together, laugh with each other and support each other immensely. However, all this is done on the phone. What would we do without technology? Let’s hope we will meet again soon.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background
I was a counsellor working for a college in Bristol and moved to Reading with my then small children. I was a stay at home mum who started work at a local preschool. In time, I became a manager of a preschool. I loved working with children, however, I felt I could do more, and wanted to work for a Christian organisation. I managed to get a job as an assistant manager for a small charity shop, but sadly I was made redundant and I was out of work for 8 months. Then one day, I was approached by a senior manager from CCA who told me about a new opportunity and I was employed as a supervisor in 2 shops. I loved working face to face with the public, but again I wanted to use all the skills and qualifications I had acquired to do more. The position for support centre manager became available, I applied and was successful, and now I am doing the job I love.