With in-mall events and entertainment cancelled for the majority of 2020, the Parkway Shopping Centre was aware the pandemic’s impact on its charities was going to be significant. At first glance the annual fundraising target, set in Q4 2019, seemed likely out of reach without the generosity of its shoppers and the high footfall normally enjoyed by the popular destination.
Adaptation and collaboration became the key words in 2020. In what has been the hardest year for most businesses, especially the retail sector, finding ways to adapt and create a new way of working and engaging with the community was vital. The centre started to work collaboratively with charities, groups and stakeholders to identify common goals, putting heads together for a bit of lateral thinking, which paid dividends.
Zoe France, Centre Manager explains: “We supported the Cause charity with their Holiday Hunger over the Easter holidays, along with Teesside Family Foundations Random Act of Kindness, giving those struggling due to bereavement, illness or simply in need of cheering up, a small treat such as a bouquet of flowers, a pizza delivery, or even an afternoon tea.
Zoe Continues: “We also wanted to help people with the monotony of lockdown. We helped source books for the Used Book Distribution Programme, working with Linx, James Cook Hospital and local councillor, Jon Rathmell and moved our popular Wacky Wednesday children’s activities online, where they could be easily accessed”.
Moved by the plight of hearing about less well-known charities, the Parkway Community Fund was created, inviting local organisations to apply for a £250 grant, which could be used to either improve a service or help more of its potential service users.
With the easing of lockdown at the end of November, the centre was able to keep the magic of Christmas alive for the local community, albeit a little differently, but none the less just as special.
Familiar names arrived back in the centre to raise much needed funds. For the fourth consecutive year, the centre teamed up with TFM’s Mission Christmas, acting as a drop off point for Christmas gifts to be distributed to those individuals and families not likely to receive anything. So successful was the response, the charity later confirmed it was the best year for donations ever.
Teesside Hospice brought their Light up a Life Campaign to the centre for its third year, offering shoppers the opportunity to dedicate a personal message to a lost loved one. Thanks to the generosity of the Parkway’s shoppers, they raised £948.13 for Teesside Hospice.
Team spirit was evident at the Christmas jumper day, seeing retailers and staff donating £1 to the Remembering Rebecca charity, to wear their festive attire for the chance to win a prize.
Possably the most important visitor to the mall was Santa himself, who came into the centre at night to film individual replies to some of the mountains of post received, via the magical post box, again for a small donation to the charity. Reading many of the selfless letters from children who just wanted to thank the NHS and tell Santa to stay safe, was humbling for the management team.
Zoe continues: “It’s been hard, but it’s been important for our business and staff to be able to look back and try to see the positives that can come out of 2020. Even in challenging times we put our shoppers at the centre of what we do. Adapting to new requirements for PPE and ever-changing guidelines, at the Parkway we have been able to maintain good footfall numbers for the year against national statistics ending the year on (12.7%). This could not have been possible if it were not for our hard-working staff, making shoppers feel safe and comfortable. Recognising the hard work and commitment of our own staff with a gift or reward and supporting each other in the challenges of lockdown, has made us a closer and even more unified workforce”.
With a national vaccine programme well underway, the community-based shopping centre is optimistic for 2021 and excited to welcome back all its retailers, in due course.