Volunteering in the Pandemic: Sourcing Outside the Box

Laura Walsh is HR Manager and Consultant at PPL. During the height of the pandemic she led PPL’s operations team volunteering with Surrey County Council, sourcing donations and support as part of the council’s emergency response.

At the height of the pandemic, parts of PPL’s operations team were re-deployed to volunteer in support of Surrey County Council, sourcing donations and supplies to protect key workers and improve the lives of NHS staff, patients and vulnerable residents in Surrey.

Our team worked closely with a dedicated and driven team of public servants in Surrey to understand requirements as they developed and to do what we could to help. Putting in over 150 volunteering hours, over a 7-week period, this included contacting 180 businesses nationwide and working with them to secure donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), food boxes, fabric for medical scrubs, technology for care homes and hygiene products for those shielding.

(Scrubs made from the fabric donated by Toray Textiles Europe Ltd)

The team were tasked with thinking outside of usual sourcing routes.

This meant appealing to a variety of businesses across the country; and alongside sourcing corporate donations, the most interesting research ended up being around identifying businesses that had or could re-purpose their facilities to produce PPE and other critical supplies.

The biggest successes included finding gin distilleries now producing hand sanitiser, and a building insulation company turning out material suitable for protective medical scrubs.

The response from national and local organisations was incredible and heartfelt.

From significant discounts on essential purchases to many one-off donations, including a 75-meter roll of scrub fabric which helped produce over 20 nurse scrubs for the NHS and a 120-meter roll of fabric for Surrey’s Handmade for Heroes Campaign, we have found a ready willingness to help from across businesses and communities.

The COVID-19 crisis has showed us the importance of understanding what we want to achieve as individuals and as organisations.

Only then can we begin to decide what to do first, in order to reach that outcome.