Luton hails its first Business HeroOct 20, 2020
Youth centre manager adapted services to support youngsters and teenagers at home during lockdown
A YOUTH centre boss who has been helping hundreds of young people and families during COVID-19 has become Luton Business Improvement District’s town centre Business Hero.
It was right at the beginning of lockdown that Andy Calvert, executive manager of Tokko Youth Centre, instantly recognised the impact the pandemic was having on mental health and wellbeing.
He 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,” he says.
“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.”
Tokko provided more than 200 food parcels and 155 education packs as well as helping young people to access the council’s Youth Support Team and Tokko’s own youth counselling service. They also supplied families with gardening equipment and free frozen meals as Tokko gained funding from Luton Someries Rotary Club and other local supporters.
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,” says Andy. “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 has been closed throughout the pandemic, which has hit the youth centre’s finances. “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,” says Andy.
“This will definitely have a much larger impact on the coming year’s finances but we are determined to survive.”
Luton BID project manager Fergus McLardy describes Andy as 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,” he adds. “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.