Alan Woodhead, Cherry Burton, East Yorkshire
Alan Woodhead has written his experience of being an Acts 435 Advocate, why he took on the role, and how it has found it so rewarding.
St Michael’s Church in Cherry Burton is a lovely welcoming village church, situated in a relatively affluent area. I have worshipped here for over 30 years since moving to East Yorkshire, and certainly for the past 20 years we have a history of raising funds and supporting people in need whether in the UK, through mission partners and associate churches, or through external charities. We have also recently established a Hardship Fund receiving contributions from church members and additionally from the local community. These monies are used to support individuals in areas of deprivation in Hull & East Riding through contacts with local to those areas clergy.
I first encountered Acts 435 about nine years ago when Jenny (Acts 435's Executive Director) came to our Food for Thought (a monthly meal and talk). She gave an inspirational insight into how Acts 435 works, and I thought how simple and effective it looks – I like simple!
I regularly share Acts 435 with my church's congregation, and on Acts 435 Sunday in July I aim to show a video as part of the service and display appropriate literature. I also usually include prayers for Acts 435 when it is my turn.
The congregation are very supportive, and among other things individuals offer any surplus furniture or appliances in good condition, and I often find that when the immediate need is completed through Acts 435, there may be other items that are useful to the applicant, and we can help them further where we can.
I recently gave a talk to the Food for Thought group on how it works and my own experiences, and saw it as a sort of witness. I am not a natural communicator so well outside my comfort zone! But this group offered a donation to Acts 435, and were supportive of the work we're doing in partnership.
I initially signed up, with the PCC’s (parochial church council) blessing, as an Acts 435 Advocate, mainly with a view to promoting the idea of ‘donors meeting needs’ to various local church groups and distributing a few posters with my contact details. I was unsure what impact this would have, and certainly I received little response from the flyers asking for people in need to contact me. However slowly, with introductions from Foodbank and a town centre church, headway was made by helping a few people. Then St Nicholas Church in Beverley also partnered with Acts 435 and together we made a concerted effort to engage with small church groups and local schools to meet the needs in our communities. It was really helpful to partner with Acts 435 together, and knowing that we could learn from and support each other. This helped us in developing contacts within the community in Beverley, including with Beverley Against Poverty and The Cherry Tree Centre, through which most requests are now referred. This advice centre has links throughout East Yorkshire, and we have been able to help applicants across more deprived areas of the county.
When helping people I am always struck by the kind responses of strangers. For instance, one individual from whom we were purchasing an item asked about the source of funds, and I gave him an Acts 435 leaflet. He later told me that afterwards he was so taken by the concept that he had made a donation on the website!
A mum who was struggling to get support for her autistic son was so impressed with the speed of response from Acts 435 for help with equipment that she has set out on a mission to spread the word.
A gentleman, who previously had a professional job, and was coming out of a very dark place, was being helped by another agency. He needed help to redecorate, and also to replace a broken cooker. It really helped his confidence when we offered to help with a cooker, and he got it all organised, including fitting, delivery, and negotiated a reduction! He is now confident enough to accompany me when speaking to small groups, and he helps to complete the picture of how Acts 435 can support people on their journey.
I took this role as a journey of faith, having little experience of public speaking and no experience of people in such difficult circumstances. The appreciation and, above all, hope that a relatively small gift can bring to a person or family facing a desperate struggle to get by from anonymous donors makes it so rewarding. I would wholeheartedly endorse taking the role on. For me it requires faith that God will guide and provide, as well as compassion, patience and a sense of humour.
If your church or local charity would like to partner with Acts 435 to support individuals with one-off needs, fill out our Enquiry Form.