Supporting the community is nothing new for Debbie O’Brien, in 2013 she founded Al’s Club, a social club for young adults with disabilities promoting independence and inclusion in the community with the aim of reducing social isolation.
In 2019 Debbie partnered with Andrea Evans to open a premises in Prescot, launching Al’s Activity Respite Centre (Arc), a day centre offering activity sessions and providing access to aromatherapy, a sensory room and gym as well as creating a place for local community groups of all disciplines to come together and meet.
When the Coronavirus outbreak temporarily closed Al’s Arc, Debbie and Andrea decided that their dedicated team of staff and volunteers could still help and support their local community in a time of crisis.
Calling themselves ‘Al’s Angels’, the team began offering a delivery and collections service for the borough’s most vulnerable residents, picking up groceries, prescriptions and everyday essentials for those unable to leave their homes. They have also teamed up with Alchemic Kitchen based in Huyton, to deliver a hot meal to those in need once a week.
Additionally they’ve paired up with StrucTec in Kirkby to offer a free of charge handyman service taking on basic repairs for vulnerable residents who are experiencing home emergencies during the lockdown.
Debbie said: “We are all part of the Knowsley Community and now, more than ever, it’s important that we pull together to support those most in need. That includes some of our members but also lots of others and we’re striving to ensure that no-one struggles during these unprecedented times.
“We have a fantastic team of staff and volunteers who have all thrown themselves into this project and I am so proud of them all. To have had the support of Alchemic Kitchen and StrucTec has allowed us to meet more than just the basic needs of some of our borough’s most vulnerable residents and this really is a team effort.”
Conscious that the young people who attend Al’s Club and Al’s Arc are at a higher risk of social isolation during these challenging times, two of the clubs ‘Learning Disability Mentors’ – who are themselves members of Al’s Club – are making regular phone calls to check in with their peers and the charity have a phone line set up for any resident who is lonely or in need of advice.
The team plan to continue offering support and are hoping to progress into supplying free of charge food parcels to the residents they are working with, but rely heavily on donations for this to be a possibility.
Cllr Sean Donnelly, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care said: “We are hearing amazing stories from across our borough of people pulling together to protect and support our most vulnerable residents and Al’s Arc are no exception. Well done to Debbie, Andrea and the team who are not only looking out for their members but also for their wider community and demonstrating unquestionably why Knowsley is Better Together”
If you’d like to support Al’s Angels with donations or you require some support you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org