All smiles as nursery chain helps feed community during lockdown
The owners of a chain of children’s day nurseries have helped distribute more than £60,000 of donated food and other essential supplies to local people during lockdown, after securing support from Lloyds Bank.
Smilers is a family-run chain of three nurseries that cares for more than 300 children aged three months to five-years-old, with branches in Leyton in east London, Gants Hill in Ilford and Sandy in Bedfordshire.
During lockdown, the nurseries had to close their doors to everyone except the children of essential workers – who were given a discount on their fees – and were operating at just 10% of their usual capacity.
So, managing director Bob Jandoo used the company’s premises to help store and distribute food and drink donated by local businesses to NHS staff, the homeless and vulnerable families.
Lloyds Bank provided a six-figure CBILS loan to help cover staffing costs and ensure all Smilers’ suppliers were paid, as well as buying PPE and other equipment ahead of the nurseries fully reopening last month.
A longstanding member of the Seven Kings chapter of international charity Lions Club, Bob teamed up with other community groups including The Rotary Club, Barking Gurdwara and local churches to source and deliver more that £60,000 of food and other essentials.
And, in June, Bob was part of the team that set up the 3food4u.org community hub in Waltham Abbey, which offers free food, home essentials, clothes, toys and more to anyone that needs it, without assessment or referral.
Another branch is set to open soon in North Weald, while work is also ongoing to secure a third site in Chigwell.
Bob said: “Lockdown was a very difficult time and we didn’t know how things were going to pan out.
“With Lloyds Bank’s support, we kept all three nurseries open for the children of front-line workers, but we had to streamline our service, which meant furloughing staff.
“We’re now preparing to reopen and have even created three new jobs so we can keep providing a safe and high-quality service within the government’s guidelines.
“We used the lockdown to turn our headquarters into a hub supplying food to homeless shelters, staff at Queens Hospital and Whipps cross hospital and anyone else who needed help.
“It was all hands on deck and it was fantastic to see different communities and faiths coming together to help those who needed it.”
The chain, which employs 43 staff, is planning to expand going forward and is seeking sites in Greater London, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire.
Lloyds Bank relationship director Keeta Raines said: “Smilers is a fantastic business that plays a big role in the communities it serves, so I’m really pleased to have been able to help them source the support they needed.
“Bob and all the volunteers he works with have achieved some amazing things during lockdown, reaching out and providing a helping hand when it was needed most.
“I’ve visited the 3food4u.org food bank and I was blown away by the good work that is being done there, so much so that I signed up to volunteer there myself.”