Pub landlady named as first 'Northants Lockdown Legend' for her continued services to the Northampton community

Pub landlady of the Swan and Helmet, Teresa McCarthy-Dixon, has selflessly been offering a number of discounted services for those struggling during the pandemic

By Megan Hillery
Monday, 7th December 2020, 2:58 pm
Teresa McCarthy-Dixon has been nominated by several of our readers to be the first Northants Lockdown Legend.
Teresa McCarthy-Dixon has been nominated by several of our readers to be the first Northants Lockdown Legend.

Teresa McCarthy-Dixon has been nominated as the first 'Northants Lockdown Legend' as part of our campaign to give recognition to those who have gone above and beyond to help their community throughout the pandemic.

Teresa, who has been the landlady of the Swan and Helmet pub in Northampton for 14 years, was informed that she had to close her pub in March when the nation was brought to standstill by the sudden announcement of a lockdown.

This, however, did not stop Teresa from taking action when she saw families in her community struggle to cope as they were forced into isolation.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Volunteers from the McCarthy-Dixon Foundation have been giving home and garden makeovers as well as numerous other services to those struggling throughout the pandemic.

She said: “My plan was to do something for the community. I could see people were struggling and the first lockdown was just so shocking - I don’t think anyone knew what to expect.”

Teresa, along with her husband and team of hardworking volunteers, transformed the pub into a food bank which proved to be a lifeline for many struggling families. This started with collecting monetary and food donations from regular pub goers to put together bags of essentials.

Demand became so great for her service that she applied for a grant from the Northamptonshire Community Foundation and for council funding from Northampton Borough Council. Both grants were approved, which then allowed her to bulk buy items from supermarkets such as Aldi to kickstart the pub food bank.

Teresa said: “Looking back on the first lockdown, it was extremely impossible to get large quantities of food. Supermarkets were selling out of products quickly, caterers were going really low on stock. We had to buy really large packs of food and break them down. At one point, I couldn’t even get my hands on any pasta. I had to go to crazy lengths to get food.

Teresa and her team of volunteers have been working to help those struggling during lockdown.

“Within half an hour, I said to my husband: ‘maybe I’ve made a big mistake.’ We thought we were going to run out of food by that evening and it just exploded from there.”

Teresa and her team of volunteers are believed to have helped over 30,000 people since March. These include school children, children leaving care, the families of those in the probation service and many community clubs.

At the start of lockdown, they helped to support 29 local schools in providing food for children; now, they are supporting a total of 45 schools on a weekly basis.

Services carried out by her volunteers throughout lockdown also include home and garden makeovers, monthly affordable haircuts from £8, food delivery and even cookery lessons, which they have been offering twice a week since July when they officially became a registered charity.The team even started a food larder earlier this year, where people can purchase eight food items for £5.

Teresa's husband, Anthony Dixon, has also been helping out with the food larder.

A Monday club was set up at the Swan and Helmet to help those who were feeling exceptionally lonely and isolated during the lockdown.

Speaking about the Monday Club, Teresa said: “You can be any age and you can live anywhere in Northampton - you are welcome to the Monday Club. You will get lunch, we have live music - it's just a very informal and safe environment for people to socialise.

“It has been a huge success and people feel safe coming here. I could see there were lots of elderly customers afraid to come out. It was like a safe environment with social distancing out of pub hours. They are different clientele from usual pub goers, so there is a very different atmosphere.”

When Teresa was asked what inspired her to kickstart the foundation, she said: “This has always been a community pub. There’s a huge range of people who use my pub and they have always been such a caring bunch - sometimes you’ve got to give back to the community.

“I knew there would be a lot of people out there struggling - I have a child with additional needs and I give a lot of time caring and looking after her. I go months and months without leaving the house at a time and now she is getting older and I just feel like I want to do something now and again. That’s where it all came from.”

Teresa and her team of volunteers see “great things” ahead for the foundation because they believe that there is a strong need for help in the community with regards to food affordability, wellbeing, fixing and decorating property or simply just needing someone to talk to on the phone.

Teresa added: “I want to thank everyone who has helped us along the way, donated and fundraised. It is a real community-feel project we have done and we have met so many wonderful and lovely people along the way. That's why the foundation is so special. It doesn't matter what you do have or what you don't have, everyone was happy to help people. A range of people from all nationalities working together.

“There's a lot of people I didn’t even know, who wouldn't use pubs or go to dances and I wouldn't have met them but now I know so many different people - even with our larder, it attracts a huge volume of people and we see new faces all the time.

“If anyone else does need support, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We will help everyone and everybody we can. There is no no job too big or too small. We can and we will do it; it’s all for the good of the community.”

To support the McCarthy-Dixon Foundation in meeting increased demand for their services, you can donate to their online gofundme page.To nominate someone for the '#NorthantsLockdownLegend' campaign, email [email protected] with the name of the individual or group and how they have gone above and beyond to help their community throughout the pandemic.