Charlie Hodson, Ambassador for Hospitality Action and owner of Hodson and Co Cheese Room and Delicatessen in Aylsham, reminds us all of the importance of reaching out and talking to someone. 

It seems a thousand miles away when I initially crossed paths with Hospitality Action (HA), and to say they have been a blessing is a tad of an understatement. 

Since they were founded in 1837 – a date honoured with the 1837 Gin from Wild Knight Distillery, and the result of a collaboration between Matt and Steph Brown and myself, all in support of HA – their mission of bringing support to those in need has never changed. But over the past two years, the need of their services has never been more in demand as our CEO Mark Lewis explains.

“Hospitality Action is UK hospitality’s benevolent charity and its safety net. We throw lifelines to people who work, or have worked, in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty or crisis, and support chefs, hoteliers, restaurateurs, pub and bar staff, as well as foodservice workers in schools, hospitals and the armed forces. 

 “In normal times, we help people through physical and mental health issues, poverty, addiction, relationship breakdowns, domestic abuse, bereavement, and all the other challenges that can affect us all. But of course – these aren’t normal times. 

 “The pandemic has hit the hospitality industry like a hammer blow. So, since March 2020, we’ve been working hard to put food on the tables and keep a roof over the heads of thousands of hospitality households. 

 “When the first lockdown began, we launched an emergency appeal. If I tell you on the day we opened the emergency grants portal last March, we received some 21,000 applications within the first hour, you’ll begin to get some sense of the scale of need we’ve experienced. Since then, we’ve spent over £2m on grants, far more than any other period in our history. 

 “We only wish we could have done more. 

 “Most of us are lucky to be able to take basic requirements for granted: carpets on bare floorboards; a comfortable mattress; food in the fridge; a cooker that works … But for many families, these essentials are out of reach. And that’s where Hospitality Action comes in. 

 “Every day, we’re helping hospitality people up off their knees and back on to their feet, from Land’s End to John o Groats, and from Cromer to Cardiff. By supporting Hospitality Action, you’re helping the people who run the places we love.” 

As Mark’s words show, HA needs our support. The work is only enabled by our amazing trustees, patrons, ambassadors and volunteers. But it’s because of you reading this that not only lives are changed, but lives are saved. It is because of the support you give, through the Invisible Chips Campaign, purchasing your copy of Chefs at Home or even just sharing a social post. It all helps, and every single penny we raise helps someone, somewhere within our industry.

I would like to dedicate this page to my great friend, Holkham Estate Manager Alan Miller. Since his passing in June, I have felt utterly broken. But then I think of the day when I approached ‘Mills’ and suggested a big dinner at Holkham, not only to launch HA within East Anglia but to honour an amazing young man who sadly took his own life. 

After months of planning and with tremendous support from Holkham and so many others, the event went ahead and afterwards, Mills put his arm around me and said: “We did well Charles.” And from there, HA in East Anglia has grown, with more ambassadors on board, all doing their part and sharing the HA story.

Quite simply, if you’re struggling and not sure where to turn or who to talk to, come to talk to us at Hospitality Action. We might not have all the answers but opening up and talking can start an amazing conversation. And you never know, the signpost might not be as hidden as you first thought.

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