2020 was a year that none of us will forget. All our plans were thrown into disarray and travelling was put on hold.
However, the telephone box played a central role in pulling the village together (being located outside was an advantage!) and also providing help and support to those in need. It started with collections of food and toiletries in Spring, involved plant swapping and sunflowers seeds and ended with a crescendo of inspired Christmas activity in December.
Lots and lots of people were involved in the activities and even more took part - thank you all for your enthusiasm and kindness.
Here is the story of what happened in and around the phone box in 2020.
Monica Dennis used the telephone box for a collection of toiletries for NHS patients and staff. Patients' relatives were unable to visit and therefore were not always able to replenish supplies and staff had little time to do their shopping. As ever villagers rallied round and the generous and kind donations were shared between Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Liz Loch and Caroline Neudegg prepared packs of sunflower seeds, with instructions for families – a much needed activity as we were in the first lockdown and the weather was spectacular. There was a keenness, in the air, for all things to do with gardening and growing. Over 30 packs were taken, and we received lots of pictures of the progress of the seeds on the St. Hilary website and Facebook page.
Many plants were left at the box for people to help themselves – some grown from seed and some were cuttings or sturdy plants potted up when residents were thinning out their gardens.
Oral health collection for refugees
Sam Hayes organised an oral hygiene collection for refugees in the Greek camp of Kara Tempe on Lesvos.
The weather was dismal, lockdown was on again and Monica and Caroline decided to bake Halloween cookies and put some decorations in the box. We had fun decorating them and they just about all went – around 50- 60 biscuits.
Christmas 2020 around the telephone box was the highlight of the year. A lot of thanks are due up front.
The box was lit with lights (thanks to Charlie, Kevin, Tim and Terry) as in previous years, and Caroline and Monica came up with ideas for the theme for the decoration for the box, the 12 Days of Christmas collection and telephone box takeways. Rae Kitchen helped with decoration – providing a pot for lights and Jane and Charles Williams very kindly provided the electric for the lights again. Also, a big thanks to Helen Bithell, who assisted in the sorting and packing foodbank items and thanks also to the Lochs for donating a hamper, which raised money for the Hygiene Bank. Thanks to Marilyn for helping make some of the goodies for the box.
Neil and Jayne Warnock prepared a wonderful Christmas Trail around the village. Not only donating their time, but also the goody bags and trail leaflets.
A very special thanks to Beth Whelan and her family for singing at the box
And finally, massive thanks to residents for their overwhelming kindness and generosity. We received lots of appreciative comments from both villagers and visitors.
Christmas lights switch on
The telephone box was the location for the start of the Celebrations of Winter's Eve (and also for Carols round the Village - see later). The box looked bright and wintery both inside and outside, with the main theme being polar bears. The Christmas lighting, and hologram displayed on the Stables wall was very effective.
Winter's Eve Festivities started with the switching on of the lights around the telephone box. There was a really lovely performance by Beth Whelan and her family - some onlookers admitted later that they had a few tears in their eyes when they were listening to the children singing.
It was wonderful to see the telephone box as the focal point for a family activity, thanks to the fantastic work of the Warnock family. The activity, that involved looking for letter clues all around the village, brought a lot of new families to the box to collect the information sheets and the goody bags.
Telephone Box Takeaways
From the 13th -21st December there were fun, free activities for families in the village: craft packs (bunting, origami, card making, paper chains etc.), Christmas biscuits; fabulous tree decorations made by Rae Kitchen and Monica Dennis); lucky dip; sheets with additional activities from colouring to making Christmas crackers – all of these were made available for free and the take up was good
We provided around 50 candy canes for villagers and visitors and sold a few packs of gift tags.
Carols around the village
The telephone box was also a location for Carols round the village - when Stephie Edwards and her husband, Shaun, gave a performance which many onlookers found emotional and moving.
The 12 Days of Christmas - Foodbank Collections
The 12 Days of Christmas was a unique concept - villagers were asked to donate a different type of festive themed gift on each the first 12 days of December (eg sweets, Christmas crackers, mince pies, desserts, etc). The response was amazing!!!!
As a result the village was able to support 3 local foodbank projects:
The Dusty Forge Centre in Ely has a Local Community Pantry (Bruce and Lynn Rankine’s Vineyard Church has a link to the Pantry/Foodbank). The Pantry scheme is where families pay a weekly subscription of £5 and can then come and shop at the centre – getting families to contribute a small something and thereby show commitment etc. This is a note of thanks that we received:
We delivered over 100 hampers to vulnerable families during the Christmas period and offered a special Christmas shop for Pantry members with additional festive items. Food collections were a great help. Sam
The Big Wrap
This charity provides free Christmas presents to disadvantaged children and young people in the Vale. Here is a message from this group:
A massive thank you to you!!. What an amazing charity/service. My families were all overwhelmed with the gifts that they had for their little ones. A few got quite emotional too saying how without your help Christmas wouldn’t have been half as special. Thank you everyone – we couldn’t do it without you
The Vale Foodbank
A big thank you to St. Hilary Community for your generous Christmas donation of around 85 kg of food to the Foodbank. This has helped us provide emergency food aid for local people in crisis this winter. We are so truly grateful. Becky
National Awareness Weeks
Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 16-23)
National Hygiene Week (September 14-20)
Men’s Mental Health Awareness Week June 15-20)
Helen Bithell helped to promote the week by displaying leaflets and information inside and outside the box
Toiletries: The box, along with other local locations is a designated drop off point for toiletries for the Hygiene Bank, and in December 2020 the following message of thanks was received:
Thank you for your support for The Hygiene Bank Vale of Glamorgan in 2020 - we have local donation points in Tesco in Cowbridge, Boots in Barry, Co-op in St Athan and the community phone box in St Hilary.
Packaging recycling: small boxes and bubble wrap for local potter, Sam Hayes, Dove Love Pottery
With occasional reminders to the village, these collections have had good support. People from the local and wider community also regularly leave jars for reuse in the foraging market.
Other uses of the box
Walking Guides: Terry Dennis generously continues to provide copies of walks and a leaflet providing information on all the 8 walks and digital links to the maps
Magazines: second-hand copies of magazines are placed in the telephone box (Economist, Nature, Good Housekeeping, Cardiff Life) but appear not to be well used. The only ones that have disappeared from the box, ever, (and they are only meant for borrowing!) were the railway enthusiasts’ magazines that Dermot Lyons donated!
February 2021: we will be selling valentine cookies from the box, with the aim of raising approximately £70. The money will be used to buy new paediatric defibrillator pads.
Try to drum up support for a children’s takeover of the box – baking or second-hand sale
Consider more themed days – national weeks, etc.
Competitions / art displays
Local history display
Maintenance of the telephone box
Improving access to the box by laying additional paving - March/April (3Cs?) FYI and this will be shared widely once the project is completed, Andy the Postie, donated £30 to buy the slabs – he could not be dissuaded!
Painting the inside of the box
Looking into a door opening mechanism
Help to maintain the greenery around the box (although Jane and Charles do this brilliantly but appreciate donations of plants and tubs of bulbs etc.)
Currently I am creating a photobook of some of the ‘goings on’ in the box 2020
And finally …..
I would like to express my thanks to Monica, especially, for coming up with ideas for using the telephone box, and in generously supporting (time and resources) the above projects.