Last year, Operation Drawstring supplied 250 supply bags to Birmingham’s rough sleepers. This year, they aim to double that number.
Operation Drawstring is a social action project set up to “spread a little festive cheer to those on the streets of Birmingham”, according to founder Kerry Lenihan. The project distributes packed drawstring bags filled with essentials and festive items to those in need.
Following a successful first year, Operation Drawstring have set their sights on doubling last year’s total, and potentially expanding their reach beyond the city centre. Kerry Lenihan said:
“We are hoping to beat our 250 bags of last year. Initially I had set the target at 500, but we must be realistic, it would be great to have some spare to distribute to the wider area outside of the city centre.
“I’ve noticed homeless folk in Solihull for example.”
In order to distribute more bags this year, the volunteers who help with the project have had to think back to last year, and learn from the experience. Lenihan said:
“Last year, storage was an issue, we focused on just collecting donated items so the storage costs were quite high.
“In terms of what we’re doing differently, this year we started campaigning much earlier so we have the necessary funds to purchase a storage room to host the supplies between now and distribution.
“We also need to implement a better hand out system, the issue is the sleepers move around depending on the weather and we want to make sure we are helping as many people as possible, and not doubling or in cases tripling up on bag handouts until we know as many people as possible have received one.”
In order to increase their supply, Operation Drawstring have been shortlisted for the Aviva Community Fund, which “offers the chance for local community projects to win funding”. Nominated in the “community support” category, Operation Drawstring is in the running to win a prize of £1000, which would go towards “storage and extra items or bags”, according to Lenihan.
In addition, Operation Drawstring have put on several fundraising events across the city, and will continue to do so in the run up to Christmas. Describing these events, Kerry Lenihan said:
“I have a friend working closely with me this year and we’ve created Operation Drawstring Gigs. We’ve already run about 6 or 7 of these events at various venues over the city. He has been managing the line-up for me, and helping with the promotion.
“Our last one was Saturday 29th at Walkabout, and we have a few more planned. The next two will take place at the ‘Actress and Bishop’ on Tuesday 22nd and 29th. We will also be having a Christmas Gig on Friday 23rd December, though the details are to be confirmed.”
Volunteers will also be able to donate items to the project, with the following items needed:
• Toiletries – body wash, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioners, lip balm and moisturiser.
• Gloves, hats, scarves, socks.
• Food items – chocolates, biscuits, crisps – non perishables
• Additional items could include a notepad and pen, or a puzzle book. Something to pass the time.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer to join the street team or to help collect and pack items can contact Kerry at email@example.com.