Getting Ready for Autumn

Apologies for another slightly delayed update. Things have been very busy at Oxford Mutual Aid recently, but the hard work is paying off, and we have a lot of good news to share. 

What Have We Been Doing?

As we explained previously, we are trying to make OMA as sustainable as possible. That has meant a lot of organizing, form-filling, and making our daily work a bit more efficient. Thanks to some fantastic new volunteers, we are now able to support more people than ever. We have also moved our base of operations from St. Albans Hall to the Richard Benson Hall on Cowley Road, thanks to the generosity of St Mary and St John Church.

Some key highlights include:

  • We are sending out 120 food parcels a week, with each designed to see a family of 4 through 7 days
  • Our Kitchen Collective is delivering 750 meals a week, thanks to our wonderful partners, Lady Margaret Hall and the King’s Centre. 
  • By the end of this week, the Kitchen Collective is projected to have delivered a total of 8,000 meals
  • This week, we will begin including reusable masks in our food parcels  
  • As of the end of July we were supporting over 300 Oxford families 

How Did We Spend Donations? 

We’ve been able to reduce costs considerably over the last few months. In May, we set a budget of £3,400 a month. In June, we spent £2,070, and in July we spent £2,359. It is worth noting that of July’s expenses, a combined £998 was spent on an annual insurance policy and legal advice regarding incorporation. Our monthly running costs for July were well under £2,000.

Our weekly bulk purchases consist mainly of food, but also other necessary supplies like nappies. ‘Request Management’ refers to specific items that someone we support needs and which we do not currently have in stock. 

The Case Management and Kitchen Collective teams each have their own budgets, and ‘Emergency Shop’ refers to situations where it has been necessary to shop for someone rather than supply them with food parcels. ‘Others’ includes any items not budgeted for that month, which could range from fridge thermometers to shelving. 

We do not means test those who ask us for support. In order to continue offering aid to anyone who needs it, we have needed to build up relationships with other organisations to source food. 

Thanks to the incredible generosity of both SOFEA and the Oxford Food Bank, we are now able to source almost all our non-perishable goods for free, which has taken a big chunk out of our costs. 

Our thanks also go to Oxford City Council for providing us with a truck to collect food from the Oxford Food Bank, and to Good Food Oxford, whose online forums were instrumental in setting up this arrangement. 

What Are We Doing About Incorporation? 

As we said previously, Oxford Mutual Aid has grown to the size where it needs to incorporate. We were initially considering becoming a Community Interest Company, but we have since been advised that it will be easier and quicker to incorporate as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. 

When we do incorporate, we will post our Articles of Association here. Needless to say, we will still be 100% volunteer run. We will continue to post all expenses on Open Collective, together with receipts, so you are confident your donations are being spent wisely. 

We have also expanded our Oversight Committee to 7 people, to better distribute the workload. For OMA to be sustainable, we need it to be easy for volunteers to take on more or less as their circumstances change, and we are working hard to build a flexible structure.

What Next?

September will be a challenging month. While the furlough scheme has been extended, schools and universities are currently scheduled to re-open as normal. As many of our volunteers are students and teachers, this means we need to train new volunteers and prepare to make any necessary adjustments to the way we operate. 

Like you, we have been watching the news closely. While the UK has yet to experience a second wave, it seems sensible to anticipate an increase in Covid cases over the next few months. We are also concerned about how the colder, wetter weather of Autumn and Winter will affect the elderly and immunocompromised in our communities, and what that added strain on the NHS will mean in terms of Covid-19. 

While the Autumn will be challenging, it is truly amazing how much has been accomplished by our volunteers and partner organizations. Increasingly, people from all over Oxford are coming together to work out how to protect their different communities. We are confident we can continue to support one another, whatever the next few months hold.