Ipswich Scouts’ Christmas post cancelled due to coronavirus
It is a major delivery operation that gives the Royal Mail and even Santa himself a run for their money as the festive postal service of choice in Ipswich, Felixstowe and Kesgrave.
But now, the area’s beloved Scouts Christmas post service - which has been running for the past 33 years, complete with its 150 collection points – has been cancelled due to coronavirus.
Scouts in the area first started spreading seasonal cheer in 1987, when Stuart Whitmore’s parents began a humble operation where people could send Christmas greetings while supporting their local scout group.
Mr Whitmore - who has since taken over the running of the service - said it had become “extremely important” to the groups signed up, with Cubs, Beavers and Explorers joining in to make deliveries across 2,500 streets.
“For some groups, this is the backbone to their financial stability providing the income required to heat and maintain the Scout premises in which they operate,” he said.
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However, Mr Whitmore said that while various methods are used to sort and share the hundreds of deposited cards, “all of them involve a number of people from different households being involved”.
He added: “The space and considerable time that this process takes does not easily allow for social distancing, let alone the contact point of the cards themselves having the potential, although small, to transfer the virus.
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“This can, of course, be minimised by the use of PPE or even quarantining of collections - but it is ultimately the amount of people required to successfully sort and process the volume of cards that we usually handle that has brought us to conclude that we would be breaking government guidelines while completing this process.”
He added that with the “ever-changing status of the Covid 19 restrictions implemented, we could not guarantee being free enough from restrictions to allow the collection, sorting or delivery processes to be fully completed”.
Organisers therefore took the decision to cancel this year’s collection, with Mr Whitmore saying: “We do not want to put ourselves in the position where we had taken cards and payment from our loyal customers to then not be able to complete the process and fulfil our commitment of delivery before Christmas.”
While Mr Whitmore said the “loss of income this year will not signal the demise of the groups”, he added: “The future funding and prosperity of them will very much depend on the system being protected from failure this year, so that next year we can confidently return to providing the reliable and well-supported service that the public have become used to having.
“We apologise for the inconvenience the closure of this service may bring but we must protect our volunteers so that they too will return next year to continue the service that has delivered millions of Christmas cards for the public of Ipswich and surrounding areas.”