As part of Amazon’s COVID-19 relief programme, charities near our sites across the UK have received pandemic grants that aim to help tackle the issues of hunger, homelessness and isolation.

The pandemic grants scheme provided funds to charities and causes hit hardest by the pandemic in communities near our operating locations. All the charities that have been awarded grants were nominated by Amazon’s champion network of employees, who continue to highlight the issues that their local charities have faced throughout the pandemic, such as lack of funding and cancelled events.

Having received applications from employees for charities local to our sites across the UK, more than 50 charities have been supported through the latest wave of grants – including more than 17 food banks, 27 projects supporting the homeless and 8 projects tackling isolation.

“Our services have never been more needed”

Leaders at charities benefiting from the donations have been sharing messages of thanks, and outlining the potential impact in their communities.

Ruth McCaughley is Fundraising Manager for The Whitechapel Centre in Liverpool, which works to tackle homelessness and has provided over 10,000 food parcels and 50,000 meals since March last year. “The last year has been a challenging time for us all and we’ve had to adapt the ways in which we help people who are homeless,” Ruth explains. “Support from Amazon will help us to support some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in our community, providing food and essential items to keep people indoors, safe and well through the pandemic.”

In London, Shelter From The Storm is a free emergency night shelter providing accommodation, meals and services to 38 people every night of the year. Sheila Scott, chief executive and co-founder of the charity said: “During these difficult times, our services have never been more needed. Amazon’s support is hugely appreciated and has enabled us to continue to help and keep people safe in our community.”

Ben Rafiqi is co-founder of Let’s Feed Brum in Birmingham, which provides essentials and friendship to thousands of people who are homeless in the city. “Like all charities, our services are in huge demand due to the pressures of the ongoing pandemic,” he explains. “Amazon’s support will enable us to continue to reach and help people in our community, who need our friendship and signposting services now more than ever.”

We also caught up with some of the employees who nominated local charities to find out more about the potential impact of these donations and what it means to them to help those in our communities.

Gillian Maxwell, Executive Assistant, Gourock, Scotland

Amazon employee Gillian Maxwell helps out at the community garden in Gourock
Amazon employee Gillian Maxwell at the community garden in Gourock

I nominated The Inverclyde Shed, an organisation I’ve been aware of, and following progress of, for a while. One of the organization’s main objectives is to reduce isolation and social exclusion among people in our area, which is also a key focus for Amazon.

They offer opportunities for people in the community to meet and undertake creative, physical, purposeful and recreational activities, and collaborate with other organisations schools and charities to create these.

The Shed was involved in installing a soup shack at a local school, meaning parents can collect soup at the school gates while waiting for their children. The soup can be consumed right there or can be taken home to enjoy later.

Seeing their recent work, which includes growing fruit and veg to provide for a local housing complex, I just had to be part of it, and I’ve signed up as a member of The Shed, known as ‘Shedders’. I’ll be out with them as soon as I can, getting involved with volunteering and workshops!

I’m thrilled that we’re supporting The Inverclyde Shed, and I hope this donation helps continue their fantastic work in the community where our Gourock Fulfilment Centre is based.

Darren Emmet, Inbound Operations Manager, Bristol

Headshot with PPE Darren Emmett
Darren Emmet works at Amazon as Inbound Operations Manager in Bristol

The Bristol Soup Run Trust provides food and support for homeless people and those living in poverty in Bristol. The organisation has plenty of volunteers, but often struggles with funding for resources. I had previously invited them in for a talk with our team, which dispelled common stereotypes about homelessness inspired us to act.

I’m ex-military, and homelessness is a challenge lots of ex-military personnel face, so it’s an issue I’ve always been really aware of. Walking around Bristol with my daughter, we noticed the levels of homelessness and wanted to find a way to help. It was amazing to be able to tell her and the rest of my family that The Bristol Soup Run Trust would be getting a donation from Amazon.

The charity director told us that the donation will result in more than 100 days of support for their activity, including running costs to support 45 local people each night, as well as food, sleeping bags, clothing and toiletries.

Holly Rabson, Brand Specialist, Manchester

Holly Rabson
Holly Rabson is a Brand Specialist at Amazon, Manchester

My nomination represents my team and the Manchester office, and by extension the local community, which is why I felt aligned with the core values of Coffee4Craig.

The charity was launched to show the impact of homelessness in the UK and particularly Manchester. The founders started by giving out coffee on the streets of Manchester and they have since expanded to a base with a chef, kitchen and an area to relax and eat, which has been hugely important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charity was a big part of my upbringing. It can be easy to find yourself in a bubble, unaware of what’s going on in the world around you. So it’s important to raise awareness for others when you can. Being able to help is a great priveliege, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

It’s fantastic to support charities that I’m passionate about through Amazon. I hope the donation can help continue to provide hot food, showers, food parcels, medical support and mental health crisis intervention to those who need it in our community.

Yanira Gonzalez, AWS Project Manager, London

Yanira Gonzalez is an AWS Project Manager in Warrington

I nominated The Big Help Project (Knowsley Foodbank) which provides food boxes for families in need due to homelessness, unemployment and more.

Before the pandemic, they reached 500 people every month, and during the worst months of COVID-19 they were helping 2,500 people each month. Support was critical for many people who were experiencing hardship at the beginning of the pandemic, and these food boxes relieved a lot of pressure. Although a box of groceries seems small in the grand scheme of things, the Knowsley Foodbank can make have a huge impact on a family.

People from many different walks of life rely on Knowsley Foodbank – including young people at risk of homelessness, new residents, refugees, individuals just coming out of prison and senior members of our community. For older people or those with mobility restrictions, the foodbank will deliver food boxes straight to them. My husband was born and raised in the local area and I come from the US, so this is a nice way for me to help the local community!

I’m very proud to live in Merseyside and I’m proud to work at Amazon. I had already planned to volunteer with Knowsley Foodbank to pack food boxes once lockdown ends, and now I can help with funding too – thanks to Amazon.

Rosemon Meissner, AWS Global Account Representative, London

Rosemon Meissner
Rosemon Meissner is an AWS Global Account Representative in London

Centrepoint Soho focuses on homeless young people in the city. The charity goes beyond immediate needs like accommodation and hot meals by also focusing on ways to prepare young people to live independently – by attending college, retraining or developing new skills, for example.

Donating to Centrepoint aligns with my own charity work. For the three years prior to the pandemic I would buy insulated flasks and blankets and hand these out in central London to homeless people who I would see every day on the walk to work. When the pandemic started, I couldn’t do this anymore – but this donation has allowed me to carry on having that positive impact in a new way.

At Amazon we often talk about ‘customer obsession’ to let your customer now they’re valued and important. For me, customer obsession goes for everyone I interact with – in my career, outside of work, or in my charity work. Similarly I want Centrepoint to be seen, heard and valued, so this donation really helps. It also makes me feel valued as an Amazon employee!

Mohamed Osman, Programme Manager, Sheffield

Mohamed Osman
Mohamed Osman is a Programme Manager at Amazon in Sheffield

The Roundabout Homeless Charity is based in Yorkshire and addresses youth homelessness, working with individuals aged 16-24 who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless. The charity works to put mitigating options in place for those at risk, and offers shelter, support and life skills to those who are currently facing issues with housing.

When the opportunity for the donation came up, I wanted to nominate somewhere local so this charity was a natural choice. I moved here six years ago and first noticed the charity’s storefront in the city centre. There were lots of young people outside and it had such a positive vibe, it made an impression on me.

It feels amazing to take action on issues in my area. I felt trusted as a member of the community to represent the charities that most needed to support during the third lockdown.

I hope that this donation allows Roundabout Homeless Charity to continue supporting young people in Sheffield – now and in the future.

Read more about how Amazon is supporting communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.