“Our goody bags have given over 1,000 households a mental health boost”

When the development of his mental health support app Group Hug was put on pause due to the pandemic, Jonathan Greenwood found another way to support the well-being of his community.

Last updated: 13 May 2020 3 min read

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Yorkshire social entrepreneur Jonathan Greenwood and friend. © Yorkshire Cancer Research

“Our goody bags have given over 1,000 households a mental health boost”

“Around two weeks before the UK imposed stricter rules on social distancing, when panic buying was in full swing, I thought to myself: we will be put into a lockdown, and that is going to have a disastrous impact on mental health.”

Jonathan Greenwood, a Yorkshire Dales-based software developer and social entrepreneur, was in the process of developing an app called Group Hug, a volunteer-led support resource for people experiencing mental health challenges, inspired by his own experiences of anxiety and depression.

But as the coronavirus pandemic started to disrupt business rhythms around the world, Jonathan was forced to put the app on hold.

“I recognised the risk that social distancing posed to our mental health – especially our community here in the Dales given that, being so rural, our regular life is somewhat socially distanced anyway.”

Reaching out

So Jonathan reached out to local businesses with the idea of creating goody bags for those in need in the community, particularly the over 70s; people with long-term health issues or undergoing treatment for diseases such as cancer; new mothers; and NHS workers. After the Queen’s address to the nation in early April, Jonathan felt the best way to express the sentiment behind his campaign was ‘We will meet again.’

“I had a really strong buy-in from lots of local businesses, which helped get the initiative off the ground, alongside one-off donations from local individuals,” he says.

“I’ve had so many messages from people telling me that the goody bags have made their day”Jonathan Greenwood, social entrepreneur

“I’d funded the first 250 bags myself but I soon realised demand was much higher than that, and with the help of six residents and 30 local businesses we raised £3,000 in two weeks. As of 1 May, this has helped us to deliver 1,027 goody bags to key workers and households across the Dales.”

The goody bags contain a range of items aimed at raising the spirits of recipients, from sweets and local cheese, milk and eggs, to uplifting messages and poetry from local community groups. The bags also contain important information from the emergency services, including how to alert the police if you are suffering from domestic abuse.

“We also included coupons for local businesses, currently forced to close, which can be redeemed when current lockdown measures are reduced,” says Jonathan. “Not only have these helped people to keep looking ahead to a life post lockdown, they’re also hopefully helping small businesses to get on the front foot as soon as they are allowed to reopen, which is so important.”

Raffle tickets to win prizes such as a meal for two or a one-to-one cookery class were also included, with winners to be drawn as soon as lockdown restrictions ease.

“Around 250 people have helped us distribute the goody bags,” adds Jonathan, “and combined with the more than 1,000 households we’ve reached, the knock-on effect of the campaign has been amazing. I’ve had so many messages from people telling me that the bags have made their day. It’s created a real network of positivity, and I hope it’s gone a small way to helping people manage their mental health at this incredibly difficult time.”

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