A youth centre boss who has been helping hundreds of young people and families during COVID-19 has become Luton Business Improvement District’s (BID) town centre Business Hero.
It was right at the beginning of lockdown that Andy Calvert, executive manager of Tokko Youth Centre in the heart of Luton town centre, instantly recognised the impact the pandemic was having on mental health and wellbeing.
He immediately set about adapting Tokko’s services so that young people were still supported at home, and has now been recognised for his continual efforts as part of the BID’s new social media campaign.
“So much changed for local families and young people when lockdown began, and it was obvious very early on that mental health and wellbeing was being affected. Children and teenagers were not able to get out and interact, so we started visiting those who were most at risk, speaking to them on their doorstep and delivering items like food, board games and toys. We run a lot of support programmes at Tokko, but this was different. We had to find ways to reach people at home.”
Thanks to Andy, Tokko provided over 200 food parcels and 155 education packs, and assisted with referral pathways for young people to access the council’s Youth Support Team and Tokko’s own youth counselling service. They also supplied families with gardening equipment, frozen meals free, as Tokko gained funding from Luton Someries Rotary Club and other local funders also, continuing to run many other COVID projects which helped families regain some structure during a challenging period. The youth centre is still providing ‘at-home’ services as the pandemic continues.
“It is still important to me and my team that Tokko supports young people so that they still have some consistency. We give families activities to do together to create a bit of normality and to give them positive experiences. Lockdown was a difficult period for everyone and when I was not able to do my job, I still wanted to support people in a different way.”
Tokko not being able to open has had a negative effect on the youth centre’s finances. Andy added: “Our building has not been able to open as normal. We have found alternatives to our drop-in sessions with the at-home support we provided, but we have not been able to take our normal room bookings for training and meetings, which are our main source of self-generated funds. This will definitely have a much larger impact on the coming year’s finances, but we are determined to survive.”
Fergus McLardy, Luton BID project manager said: “Andy is an exceptional example of the sheer commitment and dedication being shown by many town centre workers and business owners. His efforts have ensured that young people and their families are supported, and that Tokko’s important services have continued against the odds. We are thrilled he is our first Luton town centre Business Hero.”
Luton town centre Business Heroes must be employees or owners of BID levy paying businesses, and can be nominated via the Luton BID website: www.lutonbid.org/luton-town-centre-businessheroes.