Trust AGM, October 2021: Chairman's Statement to Members

For over 70 years, the history of the Harpenden Trust has centred around the simple principle of good neighbourliness, responding to support our community when and where local needs arise.

In reacting to the global pandemic and its impact on the lives of so many local residents, the Trust’s response this last year has been truly exceptional.

If you have driven past the Harpenden Public Halls at any point in 2021, chances are you would have noticed the Harpenden Trust team in their purple tabards ready to welcome those invited to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations. On putting out an appeal to the local community to come forward and volunteer to help deliver this, the Trust were overwhelmed by the huge response, with over 700 offers of assistance in just one week! The Harpenden Trust has been working closely with the three GP surgeries in Harpenden since November 2020 to ensure everything runs smoothly at the Harpenden Public Hall Vaccination Centre. We are proud to have played our part in supporting our local GP practices and local residents throughout this critical vaccination roll-out period.

When the UK originally went into lockdown back in March 2020, at the start of our most recent financial year, we had responded to the Town Council’s Harpenden Cares initiative by setting up a socially distanced call centre at the Trust’s offices. The Harpenden Cares Contact Centre went on to receive over 2,000 calls for Covid-19 Pandemic support from Harpenden residents, assisting both practically and emotionally. We enjoyed linking up with both the Salvation Army and Bethany Church, who provided much needed Food Bank and assisted shopping and prescription collection services.

During the pandemic, the Trust also went on to respond rapidly to a specific request from the local St Albans and Harpenden GP Federation in assisting over 12 local GP practices with delivering and distributing oxygen monitors to local residents.

Additionally, one of the most notable developments over the last 12 months has been the expansion of our Befriending service. During the last year we experienced a four-fold increase in demand and we are currently providing befriending support to over 70 people, a number that continues to rise.

All this activity has been in addition to the significant ongoing day to day work of the Harpenden Trust, across both our Care Fund where we are currently providing financial and practical support to over 565 local families, individuals and young people; and our Community Fund which has continued to provide support for schemes and local projects which benefit so many parts of the community - including the young, old, disabled, local sporting and educational establishments.

Over 500 volunteers – a truly extraordinary number of local people – have made this all possible. All local Harpenden residents, all so kindly offering their time and support to all that the Harpenden Trust seeks to achieve.

Everyone has played their part - from all the Care Fund and Community Fund Committee members; to the members of the various related sub-Committees and teams; to the Trust Office teams answering the phones each day; to the Care Fund Home Visitor teams whose work is so often and necessarily anonymous and hidden from plain sight; to all those so kindly befriending local residents; to those members of the Audit Committee who carefully monitor and review risk and oversee our governance; to the Investment Committee overseeing our core investment portfolio; to the Trust's annual Christmas Appeal team involving Area Organisers and so many individual Collectors (so much of the work of the Care Fund relies heavily on monies raised by the Christmas Appeal); to the Harpenden Cares Contact Centre call handers; to the huge number of indoor and outdoor marshals at the Vaccination Centre; to the pivotal Vaccination Centre Volunteer Leads to all those administrative organisers who have been handling such a mammoth amount of administration required behind the scenes and to everyone else who has made such a difference over the course of the last year.  

This has been a truly fabulous and quite extraordinary team effort.

There are such a huge number of unsung heroes right across the Harpenden Trust – all those volunteers who have made such an exceptional contribution across our local community in a year when many local people sought our support. We were therefore delighted to share the news that Pat Ring, our People Director, was included in the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honours List last Summer, being awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the community in Harpenden during COVID-19. Pat has been at the heart of much of the work that has gone on during this difficult time and we are all so delighted that she has been honoured in this way.

Thank-you to everyone involved.

The Trust would simply not exist without the amazing enthusiasm and dedication of its volunteers. This last year has witnessed such an amazing community response to the global pandemic - and it has been a privilege for the Harpenden Trust to have played its part.


Richard Nichols, Chairman




The story of the Harpenden Trust has for over 70 years been one of good neighbourliness.  Harpenden as a town has, within its community, both the needy and the well off.  “One could help the other” was at the heart of our founding principles, and “Funded by Harpenden people, managed by Harpenden people to benefit Harpenden people” continues to be our mantra.


The Trust’s response to the Covid-19 global pandemic was immediate and is still continuing.

In addition to the ongoing activities of the Care Fund and the Community Fund throughout this period, the Harpenden Trust has also played three significant key roles over recent months:

Establishing the Harpenden Cares Contact Centre

At the outset of the global pandemic in March 2020, as part of the Harpenden Cares initiative, the Trust substantially scaled-up its Care Fund operations, in particular establishing a fully staffed call-centre based at the main Southdown Halls to act as the 'Harpenden Cares Contact Centre'. This Contact Centre provided a necessary and critical link between requests for assistance and the resources available to meet those requests.

Within a matter of a few days in early March the Trust had transformed the original single telephone line in the Trust offices into a fully operational twelve line call centre, with a 24 hour answering service capability and all linked to the original Harpenden Trust telephone number (01582 460457). A newly recruited team of more than 20 Call Handlers, all local volunteers, stepped forward to handle the calls received between 10am and 2pm each weekday (including all Bank Holidays), ensuring all callers received an immediate, warm and empathetic response.

Over the weeks that followed the Trust handled a huge variety of requests. At the outset the Trust was answering between 150 and 170 calls per week. Many calls related to assisted shopping and prescription / medication pickup, although in reality there was rarely such a thing as a "standard call". Over time, the Foodbank began to operate on a more regular delivery schedule, sometimes weekly but often fortnightly, reducing the overall volume of calls.

The single statistic that probably best reflects the scale of what was achieved is that since March 2020 the Trust has answered well over 2,000 calls from local individuals requesting support.   

The Trust also developed its internal Charity Log system to be accessible to its Harpenden Cares partners. This has allowed the Trust to send requests for assistance directly from Charity Log to its partners, including a Foodbank operated by The Salvation Army; a shopping service coordinated by Bethany Church and for medical needs which mainly involves collecting and delivering prescriptions.

Delivering Oxygen saturation monitors for the GP Federation

The Trust was also asked during 2020 by the St Albans, Harpenden and Redbourn GP Federation to take on the task of delivering and collecting back oxygen saturation monitors between the established Halley Stewart hub and patients' homes.

Supporting the Harpenden Vaccination centre

The Trust has also been playing a key role in the community supporting the local GP surgeries in organising the roll out of Covid-19 vaccinations in Harpenden.

Since November 2020, the Trust has been busy working closely with the local doctor’s surgeries to ensure everything runs smoothly at the Harpenden Vaccination Centre.

On putting out an appeal to the local community to come forward and volunteer to help deliver this, the Trust were overwhelmed by the huge response, with over 700 offers of assistance. Two formal references were required for those new to (and joining) the Trust, DBS checks were completed at the GP Federation’s request, and then all these offers of help could be organised into a weekly rota, covering four time slots each day, Monday through Saturday. The weekly rota alone represented some 360 time slots. Volunteer roles have been broad, covering areas such as indoor and outdoor marshalling, administration support at the main entrance desk and staffing the post-vaccination Observation Room.

With the objective of ensuring all adults across Harpenden are fully vaccinated, this has been a long-term commitment spanning many months.  It has been such an amazing community response and has been a huge project to manage, made substantially easier with the help of so many fantastic volunteers.

The Trust is so pleased to have played its part in supporting our local GP practices and local residents throughout this critical period.



Beyond the pandemic, the main activities of the Trust which form the strategy for the Trust to achieve its charitable purposes continue to span three core areas:

The Care Fund

Much of the work of the Care Fund is anonymous. It relies heavily on the funds raised by the Harpenden Trust’s Annual Christmas Appeal. During the period April 2020 - March 2021, the Harpenden Trust Care Fund offered support for individuals, families and young people within Harpenden. Our normal programme of events and support has been disrupted in some areas due to the pandemic. We have however been able to provide: 

·         Home Visitors calling, mainly by telephone, on those in need and arranging confidential help, from funding utility bills, to providing food or clothing vouchers or assisting with the supply of new or recycled furniture and even white goods.

·         Members of the Trust’s Befriending team have been very busy this year regularly telephoning people living on their own or feeling isolated for a chat.  The befriending team’s client base has increased from 12 to 70 in this past year.

·         Harpenden’s Seniors would normally join various day or half-day coach outings to the coast, countryside or garden centres or at one or two local coffee mornings.  While this has not been possible this year, the Trust has been able to provide gift vouchers for those who have missed out.  The Trust has also been able to provide those who might be lonely or housebound over Christmas with food parcels and assistance has been given to those on low pensions, with a grant towards utility payments.

·         Supporting young people whose families feel unable to meet the cost of school uniforms or essential school trips has continued but at a lower level.

The Community Fund

The Harpenden Trust Community Fund provides support for community schemes and projects in the Harpenden area from a substantial capital donation received in 2008 from the Abbeyfield (Harpenden) Society Limited.  Since that time it has made over 100 grants to local organisations – from schools, youth and sports clubs; to choirs, churches and charities – in support of their projects. 

The Community Fund looks to make grants on condition that these are for defined projects or specific purposes, rather than funding regular operating costs, although it considers all applications and is able to help cover temporary funding gaps that can arise in austere times.  As always, to decide between different applications can be a challenging task, but the Community Fund sets out to support specific projects which will benefit all sectors of the community; young, old, disabled, sporting, educational. 

This year with COVID we have seen a number of projects previously agreed being delayed but, as restrictions are lifted, these are restarting. We have seen demand from schools increase as capital budgets come under increasing pressure and have helped Lea Primary School, High Beeches Primary School and Roundwood Primary School improve playground equipment and outside learning/play facilities. Highfield Preschool are having their Victorian toilets modernised.

Children have also been supported through funds provided for the Hornbeam Wood Hedgehog Sanctuary to build an outside shelter and Harpenden Rovers Junior football club have had funding for kit and equipment.

The local community has also benefitted from support to Rennie Grove for the purchase of an oxygen concentrator and to the Salvation Army for the construction of an outside store for their foodbank. Support has also been given to the Sustainability project for their environmental projects in the local area.

The Community Fund has agreed to provide substantial funding towards the replacement of existing play equipment in Rothamsted Park which should be completed by the end of this summer.

Since the creation of the Community Fund in 2008, over £800,000 has now been given to local organisations.

The Harpenden Trust Centre / Hall Hire

Located in the heart of Southdown, the Harpenden Trust Centre has two modern, well-equipped halls for hire for a range of community activities, both regular and one-off. Until the coronavirus pandemic had its impact, a wide variety of clubs, societies and classes have met regularly, and the halls have hosted children’s parties and charity fundraisers. 

The Renwick Hall, at approximately 1,080sq ft and with a capacity of 80 persons seated (or 120 standing), is most suitable for larger children’s parties, larger meetings and lectures, or dance and exercise classes.  The smaller Randall Room is just under 300sq ft and has a capacity of 40 persons seated (50 standing), being more suitable for adult classes, smaller children’s classes and choirs, yoga and similar events. All hires include the use of a fully fitted kitchen. The pandemic has understandably had a significant impact on the hiring out of the halls including on their permitted capacities.



The Trust operates almost exclusively on a volunteer basis and is most fortunate to have had the services of over 500 unpaid volunteers during the course of the year. The Trust would not function without the generosity of time donated by so many dedicated local people.

To put this into some perspective, without the enthusiasm, drive, professionalism and commitment of all the Trust’s volunteers, the Trust would not this year have: 

·         made 475 telephone “home visits” and so enabled families to be assisted by financial and other means, also with furniture needs;

·         ensured that 79 people received help with their utility bills;

·         distributed 169 Argos vouchers to those who have missed out on cancelled coach and child care outings;

·         enabled 140 residents to receive Christmas parcels;

·         provided an expanded befriending service;

·         delivered c.10,000 Christmas Appeal envelopes in 350 roads and collected back c.5,000 envelopes – involving 234 organisers and collectors;

·         helped 34 families with furniture needs;

·         helped 12 wheelchair users by the free loan of wheelchairs.


The full Annual Report & Accounts 2020-21 for the Harpenden Trust can be found by clicking on the link here.

05 October 2021

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