Big-hearted Penge residents came together on Sunday 27th of September to host a socially distanced Macmillan Coffee Morning ‘trail’ and raise money for the cancer charity.

With Covid restrictions presenting a challenge to many fundraising and community events this year, a group of neighbours decided to get creative and came together collectively to host Coffee Morning stalls outside their homes, with all funds raised going to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The trail, which was made up of six stalls dotted around SE20, has raised over £2,200 so far.

Kathryn Palmer-Skillings, one of the event’s organisers, explained more:

“There’s a fantastic community spirit in Penge and we’ve all really missed the many events that usually take place in the area. But this year, everything has been cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. So, I decided to reach out to neighbours, via our local WhatsApp group and Facebook page, to see if anyone would be interested in taking part in a Macmillan Coffee Morning ‘Trail’ and raise some much-needed money for the cancer charity.

“We took every precaution to ensure that we were socially distanced – all the stalls were outside and it was strictly take-away only! We had face masks, individual sugar sachets, 2m distanced chalk marks, queueing systems…even an online map showing exactly where all the stalls were. We thought of every possible precaution!

“Our lovely neighbours lent us their front garden for our own stall. It was great to see so many people show their support by coming along – neighbours and friends, as well local people we hadn’t met before. It was a really special day. And everyone enjoyed it so much that we’ve already decided to make the Penge Macmillan Coffee Morning Trail an annual event!”

Neighbour Wendy Natale explained why she wanted to give back to Macmillan:

“Everyone knows someone with cancer and the chances are they’ve been helped by Macmillan; either information from their website, printed leaflets or support from their amazing nurses. I lost a sister to breast cancer and my other sister is a breast cancer survivor and I know how much they appreciated the support of Macmillan nurses. And my husband had non-Hodgkin lymphoma 10 years ago – the Macmillan nurse then was just amazing. She was sensitive, supportive and so helpful.

“I got involved with the Macmillan SE20 coffee trail as I’ve been a long-term supporter of Macmillan and it seemed a great opportunity to do something positive for the charity and the community in these strange times.”

Another resident, Rebecca LaChance, said:

“I signed up for the coffee morning trail as soon as Kathryn suggested it – I’m an ardent amateur baker and love any excuse to use my baking skills for good! In the past I have donated cupcakes to coffee mornings hosted by other folks, but in this time of lockdown and isolation a neighbourhood bake sale seemed the perfect antidote.

“One of the only silver linings in the past six months of uncertainty has been getting to know my neighbours much better and being able to share homemade goodies with them for a good cause was just wonderful! We had four bakers on our street and raised over £415!”

Local businesses also lent their support, with Carnival Coffee Roasters, a small Penge based coffee company, donating a bag of coffee to each stall. While Penge Food Hub, a volunteer-led community enterprise supporting small food producers, donated free-range, locally sourced eggs for each stall to bake with.

Last year, generous borough residents donated over £95,600 at Macmillan Coffee Mornings across Bromley.

This year, figures show the number of people planning to hold a Coffee Morning across South London had fallen by 73%, leading to concerns the charity will face a worrying fall in money raised.

Andrew Gould, Macmillan Fundraising Manager for London, said:

“It’s brilliant to see how creative everyone’s Macmillan Coffee Mornings have been this year – these Penge residents have raised a fantastic sum, while also coming together as a community to do something amazing for Macmillan and for people with cancer. After so much grim news in 2020, it’s really heartening to hear about events like this and we are incredibly grateful.

“And it’s still not too late to be a part of Macmillan Coffee Morning – you can host a virtual fundraiser, take on a physical challenge, or simply text CUPPA to 70550 to donate £5. We know that Coffee Morning is facing a £20m income drop overall this year, so Macmillan has never needed the public’s support more. Without their generosity, we may be unable to fund vital cancer care and support services in London, such as Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialists or Macmillan Cancer Support Workers. So, hopefully everyone will be inspired by the inventive fundraising efforts of these South Londoners and get involved.”

This year is the 30th anniversary of Macmillan Coffee Morning.