Richard Francis, a former chef who is now training to be a paramedic, launched Leave a Light On coronavirus community support in March.
He and his partner Marina Mackay have not taken an hour off since. Along with an army of up to 60 volunteers they have helped hundreds from their home in Currock, Carlisle.
“I felt some people were being missed like people in the community who don’t push themselves forward,” says Richard. “For example dyslexic people who wouldn’t fill in forms were getting missed off food bank referrals.”
Leave a Light On started with ‘hero hampers’ of treats for sick children and others nominated by the public, followed by hampers for the elderly, bereaved and vulnerable. They have carried out home makeovers, such as for a man who had no possessions, after they were contacted by social services. Richard has launched a ‘social distancing library’ outside his house, with books, DVDs and CDs. Seven volunteers are running a telephone befriending and counselling service helping around 40 isolated people.
Richard launched an accommodation service finding places for doctors, nurses and frontline workers who are staying away from their families because of their roles. “We have more than 100 people ‘rehomed’ in wigwams, log cabins, hotels, and some amazing accommodation across Cumbria,” says Richard.
The Leave a Light On helpline number is open 24/7 with calls coming in day and night. “Every time someone thanks me for what I’m doing I say no, it’s the community that is amazing and inspirational and make it all happen. Without them I would just be a crazy guy appealing for lots of things and getting nowhere.”
We’ve had some fantastic nominations as part of our #100ThankYous campaign, but Richard really is special! Richard himself nominated Marina, his wonderful wife-to-be, to say a huge thanks for all of her hard work helping out with various initiatives within the Cumbrian community.
Richard wanted to surprise superstar Marina at work, so Robbie Dee from CFM and our lovely Hannah joined Richard for the big moment – and what a heart-warming reaction it was!