Community groups spring up to help neighbours through the coronavirus emergency
COMMUNITY groups have sprung up across the Frome Valley area in response to the Coronavirus emergency.
Within days of the scale of the problem facing vulnerable people who had been told to stay at home and self-isolate becoming clear, efforts to coordinate support were being organised via social media.
One such group on Facebook is the COVID-19 Winterbourne and Winterbourne Down Response Group.
The group emerged after people started asking questions about Coronavirus on the local blog.
One of the organisers is Amy Beardmore (pictured above, inset), who works in Public Health and Community Development at UWE.
Amy said: “The group has grown very rapidly and we now have more than 470 members and counting. The response from everyone has been amazing – people have been out leafleting across the whole of Winterbourne and Winterbourne Down trying to make sure that everyone has a point of contact throughout the crisis.
“People have been so keen to help and we have been inundated with messages. It really has been a glimmer of light during what is a very worrying time for everyone. It's evolved rapidly and we are trying to keep on top of everything, but the admins have had so much support from local people – I can't believe the response really.”
Fellow group administrator Kristy Hooper said that from an initial idea of producing leaflets offering help to people who were self-isolating the group was also becoming a central point for information and for ideas for helping children sent home from school to keep learning.
In Frampton Cotterell a group of parish councillors, residents and voluntary workers have come together to set up the Frampton Cotterell and Coalpit Heath: Covid-19 Community Support group on Facebook.
Mark Baker, from the group, said: “The aim of the group is to provide community-based support to residents in need in the parishes of Frampton Cotterell and Coalpit Heath throughout the COVID 19 outbreak in a safe, collaborative and timely manner; helping neighbours be good neighbours.
“They maybe able to support with shopping, phone conversations for company and general essential tasks.”
The group has more than 500 followers who have posted forms through more than 4,000 letter boxes in the two villages to enable people in need to be able to contact their local volunteer.
Another group, called Volunteer Group: Frampton & Coalpit Covid 19, has more than 200 members and is organising people to find and help neighbours in need.
Coronavirus movement and social distancing restrictions meant that plans to set up a community cafe in Frampton Cottrell in March had to be put on hold – but organisers have instead set up a telephone befriending service for people self-isolating to reduce the feeling of loneliness.
Gillian Flower, from the organisation behind the initiative, said: “It’s working really well and the feedback from both sides is very positive and uplifting.”
Anyone who wants to be helped by the service should call 0117 902 5779 or 07948 393397.
Groups across the area are being coordinated through the Bristol and South Glos Covid-19 Help and Support group, which has more than 6,500 members.
Emersons Green town councillor Matt Palmer, who helps run the group, said: “The community really is stepping up across the whole of South Gloucestershire and Bristol, from random acts of kindness, singing, dancing, waving through windows, sending emails to food delivering, shopping and dog walking – people are all playing their part. This has been a volunteer run initiative and we have been pushing the boundaries with what we can do without funding and support from the local authority or MPs."
Anyone in need of help who is not online and is stuck at home can call Matt on 07738 589329.
Businesses are also getting involved in the effort.
One is Trent's Foods of Poplars Farm in Frampton Cotterell.
Owners Cindy and Tim Trent have offered a free delivery service for vulnerable people, which can be accessed by calling 01454 250652.
They are also helping social services to deliver food.
Since the groups set up, councils have also offered help in coordinating volunteer groups. South Gloucestershire Council announced it was setting up a directory of groups and was making available a support pack for community aid groups, via parish councils and online at www.southglos.gov.uk/communityaid.
The council is asking community groups to email their details to CommunityAid@southglos.gov.uk so it can offer support.
The groups were set up before the NHS called for a ‘volunteer army’ of 250,000 people to help deliver medicines and shopping and transport people who were fit to go home.
To get involved, visit goodsamapp.org/NHS online.