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COEL raises money to buy NHS staff in Cambridge tea and coffee

Cambridge-based design and fit-out company COEL used #BrewMonday as a day to have an in-house celebration of the £900 it has raised this year to buy NHS staff tea and coffee.

#BrewMonday is a day the Samaritans created to remind everyone to stop for five minutes, listen, and catch up with the people in our lives.

It was forged as a twist on #Blue Monday – the third Monday in January – often referred to as ‘the most difficult day of the year’.

COEL staff on #BrewMonday. Picture: Keith Heppell
COEL staff on #BrewMonday. Picture: Keith Heppell

This is the third year COEL has raised money to buy tea and coffee for the NHS after a colleague’s story inspired them into action.

Lizzie Bradbury, marketing manager at COEL, explains: “In January 2021, England was entering the third lockdown, we knew that our staff like everyone else would find this restriction on social activity really hard to deal with, however, we also knew that there are so many people worse off than ourselves. With that in mind we set up a charitable initiative for COEL to donate to each staff member’s nominated charity and should they be inclined, for them to let us know why they chose that charity.

“Some incredible stories came to light as colleagues shared personal experiences, and at a time, when we had all felt quite isolated, it allowed us to feel closer and more connected to each other. One staff member, Wayne Goddard, COEL’s head of decorating, shared his experience of his mother Geraldine catching Covid. She was rapidly taken into hospital by ambulance with the family waving goodbye but, unable to accompany her or visit her - tragically Geraldine died whilst in hospital.

“Understandably this left Wayne and his family feeling bereft but, they also felt incredibly indebted to the NHS staff who had nursed his mother and looked after her in final days.

“Wayne asked that COEL do something to help the NCCU ward which had been so good to his mother. We reached out to medics in Addenbrooke’s to ask what we could do as we wanted our donation to be to a specific ward and for it to make a difference. The answer was immediate – please buy tea and coffee!

“Maybe naively many of us had no idea that the NHS did not receive free tea and coffee. We were shocked, as when our workers are on site, one of the first things they do is set up a tea break area as we realise how very important it is to have a hot drink to keep you going. It resonated so deeply with us as a company, that we decided to let staff members know the story and if they wished to also donate then we would buy in the supplies and pass them on to Dr Richard Brown, consultant paediatrician at Addenbrooke’s who had generously said he would be Father Christmas is delivering the much-needed hot beverage supplies. That first year we raised £250, and we were all delighted to see photos Richard sent through of the supplies arriving at the various wards and departments. It had been such a popular scheme, and so we decided to do it again the following year in 2022 this time raising £400.

Dr Richard Brown, of Cambridge University Hospitals
Dr Richard Brown, of Cambridge University Hospitals

“As we entered 2023, we knew how low the morale at NHS was with staff feeling undervalued and underpaid and there has been an added element of energy in the fundraising. We set ourselves a more challenging target of £500 but, smashed the target as we raised £900. We also decided to reach out to some of our neighbouring companies and have been so grateful to receive a bounty of supplies from Huws Grey Ridgeons, Howdens and Grip Fix.

“Setting the end of the fundraising for #BrewMonday just made sense with it being a day to reach out and let people know you care. So it is with great pleasure that we are hosting a little coffee morning to raise our mugs in thanks to all the incredible medical staff at the NHS. As one COEL employee said: ‘It feels like you are buying the largest round of drinks for the most incredible people.’

“COEL would like to pay enormous thanks to Richard, who has for the last three years had his home invaded with industrial sized sacks of tea bags and large containers of coffee as the supplies are offloaded for him to deliver within Addenbrookes. There is enormous positivity attached to the fundraising we do for the NHS, and it provides us with a great sense of satisfaction that we are doing something however little to help those who help us so much.”

Dr Brown said: “The NHS runs on caffeine and goodwill. It has been a tough three years, and unlike any of the professional workplaces my non-medical friends work in – we have to buy our own tea and coffee in the NHS. The doctors, nurses, and all the other crucial team members at Addenbrookes have been so lucky to benefit from these generous donations - so good for morale.”

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