UP CLOSE WITH: Twickenham Co-op Member Pioneer Maria Nastri

Twickenham Nub News aims to support our community, promoting shops, businesses, charities, clubs and sports groups.

We profile some of these businesses and organisations in our regular 'Up Close in Twickenham’ feature.

This week we caught up with Maria Nastri, the member pioneer for Twickenham Co-op, and asked her to tell us a bit more about her role and the work she’s been doing.

Maria describes her role as “making contacts and building relationships” within the local community, and between Twickenham Co-op store managers and the Local Community Fund causes they support.

All of her projects work towards the Co-op’s three community missions: to provide fair access to food, mental wellbeing support, and opportunities for young people.

“All my projects are aligned to these three missions,” Maria explained.

Maria helped link the Twickenham volunteer project up with the Co-op (Image: Maria Nastri)

For example, she used networks on Facebook to find a local surplus food project, Food for Thought, which redistributes high-quality unwanted food for free to the community in Twickenham and beyond.

Maria put the project’s founder, Katie Allen, in touch with store managers at three local Co-ops and a food share partnership was formed.

The supermarkets now donate their unsold stock to the surplus food market, which feeds anyone in need of food via pop-up stalls on Heathfield recreation ground.

“This is supporting the environment and at the same time supporting to feed the community,” said Maria, who volunteered at the stalls in May as part of her Co-op role, said:

“It is a very inclusive project, the atmosphere is so welcoming,” she added.

Donated food from Co-op stores including in Twickenham (Image: Maria Nastri)

“It’s such a shame to realise how much food is unsold and thrown away.”

Maria has also contributed to the £8 million fundraising target for our charity partners; Mind, SAMH and Inspire to bring communities together to support mental wellbeing.

She and a colleague at the Teddington Co-op store put together nine hampers with food and products.

These were then raffled at an event held outside the Teddington store, raising an incredible £750 for Mind.

Maria said: “It was great because we saw how the community is very keen to support mental wellbeing - and it was also just a bit of fun.”

Maria at the raffle in Teddington she also helped to set up (Image: Maria Nastri)

She remarked on the generosity of those who attended the raffle as most of the people who won hampers immediately re-donated them back.

Maria is also involved in the local community fund, which she described as “one of the biggest projects in the Co-op.”

For every £1 that members spend at their local Co-op, the store donates 1p to grassroots causes in Twickenham via the Local Community Fund and 1p to the Co-op’s Community Partnerships Fund.

Local causes are non-profit groups or projects which benefit the community. Three of these are chosen for an area each year and Maria is highly involved in the selection process.

But even if causes don’t get chosen, applying is a great way to get to know what projects are going on in the area and make contacts for potential future partnerships.

One of the raffle winners (Image: Maria Nastri)

“Around 15 causes applied, said Maria, who noted that the deadline closed on 31 May 2021.

“I organised a forum and noticed they had shared project experience, most of the time they had something in common.

“It was a very good opportunity to create connections and after the forum they got in contact.”

Another great way for local causes to link up is through Co-operate, which Maria describes as a “brilliant platform.”

“It gives exposure to local causes and members of the community,” she explained.

In order to apply for the fund, organisations need to have a profile on Co-operate - so that’s an added benefit.

Asked about how she’s finding the job, which she started six months ago, Maria said there are many parts of the role that she loves.

“Contact with local people is the most rewarding part,” she said.

“It’s great to understand what is going on in the community. It’s unbelievable how many projects there are!”

She urged people to get involved as Co-op members for this reason - as well as the offers and 2p back for every pound spent you get when shopping with a Co-op card.

“From the very beginning, the Co-op has not just been a provider of goods but supported the community so members can have a better living.

“It’s about making the community a better place.”

You can contact Maria at [email protected]

If you've got any ideas on how Co-op could help your community, or want to know what Co-op is doing near you then contact the Co-op Member Pioneer Co-ordinator for your area, who will then put you in touch with your local Member Pioneer.

Become a Member Pioneer. Apply online at communityspirit.co.uk.

Upcoming Twickenham Event...

England vs Springboks - Autumn Internationals 2021

Ticket listings for England vs Springboks - Autumn Internationals 2021 at Twickenham Stadium in London on 20/11/2021 ...