New Year message: Northampton pub landlady turned charity founder reflects on a year of community spirit

Teresa McCarthy-Dixon runs the Swan & Helmet pub in Abington and has also set up a charity to help less fortunate families in Northampton. Here she looks back on a year of community spirit in a special message.

By Teresa McCarthy-Dixon
Friday, 24th December 2021, 11:05 am
Updated Thursday, 30th December 2021, 10:23 am
Teresa McCarthy-Dixon.
Teresa McCarthy-Dixon.

Never in my lifetime did I feel I would be asked to write a message to summarise a phenomenal and truly unexpected 20 months for me and the world around us.

It would be easy, with yet another Christmas and New Year with Covid hanging over us, to feel downbeat about the world, however I cannot feel like that as I truly feel Covid has brought out the best of our town.

Since my husband Anthony and I set up as a food bank at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, then registering The McCarthy-Dixon Foundation as an official charity, we have gone from strength to strength thanks to the amazing community spirit here in Northampton.

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As the nature of the pandemic has changed, so too have the services we have been able to provide.

The initial first response was immediate food parcels for those in need.

As lockdowns came and went, we realised there was still a need to support the community so we adapted our services to offer a ‘food larder,’ social clubs, cookery lessons, food parcels and laptops for schools.

Thanks to the generosity of countless businesses, individuals and councils, we now have a food storage unit from which we can provide food parcels to those with ‘hidden needs’ in our community.

We support more than 50 Northamptonshire schools, victims of domestic abuse, Northamptonshire community mental health team, Northamptonshire children’s servers, the police and probation service, along with working with Social Services.

We feel that these organisations target and support the most vulnerable people in Northamptonshire and we are proud we have been able to help them throughout and beyond lockdowns.

The support and guidance we have received from the Northamptonshire community foundation have been amazing too, and been very helpful along our journey.

The unprecedented nature of the past couple of years have illustrated just how easily someone’s luck can change, through no fault of their own.

I have seen people who have gone full circle: they may have started off donating to the food bank, then used the food bank themselves when their circumstances changed.

What I have learnt over the past 20 months, is that there are so many fantastic people in our community that genuinely care and want to support by going the extra mile to help others. There are lots of other charities that we work alongside and I would like to pay tribute to each and every one of them and the volunteers who work so hard, often going unnoticed, to selflessly help others.

Our charity has gained lots of support and recognition since its inception, which is fantastic as all publicity helps us to fulfil our aims.

I was delighted to be the first Irish person awarded Northampton’s Inspirational woman of the year, along with Northamptonshire’s community person of the year and a finalist at The Pride of Britain awards.

I never set up the charity for recognition and feel embarrassed with each award I am nominated for.

However, the recognition has been wonderful in confirming our status as a serious, long-term charity for the town and this leads to improved access to funding, including from the National Lottery, to help us continue our vital work.

As a mum of two young children, including a daughter with special educational needs, I am only too aware of the challenges families have faced recently.

I can empathise with other families in similar situations and have done all I can to help as I feel privileged to be in a position to have the time, experience and facilities to be able to do so.

I also feel privileged as the landlady of The Swan and Helmet for 15 years; the people who drink at the pub are very generous and have always been 100 percent behind all the community and charitable commitments we have undertaken.

I would like to thank them for their support.

As we enjoy our Christmases and reflect on the year, I would like to spare a thought to those who have passed away and are no longer with us.

For those of us lucky enough to still be alive, let’s raise a glass and toast 2022 and be positive about the future of our town and what we can achieve together.