Surge of goodwill helps vulnerable through crisis
HUNDREDS of volunteers have been going shopping, collecting prescriptions and providing food to help vulnerable people through the coronavirus crisis.
From spontaneously-formed Facebook and WhatsApp groups to existing community organisations, charities and councillors, a huge number of people have been giving up time to ensure those who have had to stay at home to shield from the virus are not forgotten.
Volunteers have also come together to help the NHS and carers, from sewing scrubs to producing personal protective equipment on 3D printers.
Among the groups which formed on Facebook as the crisis began to transform lives is Frampton Cotterell/Coalpit Heath COVID-19 Community Support.
People who signed up as ‘neighbour volunteers’ with the group online have teamed up with Frampton Cotterell and Westerleigh parish councillors, churches and charities to help those who have been self-isolating, from shopping to providing company with a phone call.
Mark Baker from the group said: “There have been many acts of neighbourly kindness which have helped so many in our community, which have only been made possible due to the 240 amazing neighbour volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you.
“With the continued support of the neighbour volunteers it is our hope that the group will continue to run for the length of time required to support our community through this difficult time.”
The group has worked with charities CVS South Gloucestershire, Southern Brooks and other local volunteer organisations who have helped ensure its “neighbour to neighbour support” gets to everyone who needs it, including people who are not online and may have missed the initial leaflet drop offering help.
Anyone who needs help, knows a neighbour who is in need or has ideas about how the group can continue to help vulnerable members of the community can get in touch via Facebook, by emailing COVID19FramptonAndCoalpit@gmail.com or calling 07742 604 988.
Nearby, the Covid-19 Winterbourne and Winterbourne Down Response Group also formed on Facebook and now has almost 600 members.
In Iron Acton, existing group Acton Aid has been offering help to those who are self-isolating or shielding, including collecting prescriptions, shopping and supplies, and providing friendly phone calls.
Anyone in the village who needs help or wants to offer it can call 01454 300190 to get in touch with the group, which has more than 40 members and has been established for more than 40 years.
South Gloucestershire Council is offering small scale grants to COVID-19 support groups, which can be allocated by individual ward councillors through its member-awarded funding scheme.
The council has praised the “incredible efforts” of the neighbourhood support groups, saying: “They are already providing a lifeline for people unable to get to the shops for provisions or to collect prescriptions from local pharmacies, for example, as well providing welfare support by reaching out by telephone, email, text or social media to let people who cannot get out hear a friendly voice or messages and offers of support.”
The council has been working with Southern Brooks Community Partnerships and CVS South Gloucestershire to help reach people who are not online to ensure they are helped.
Residents can contact Southern Brooks Community Partnerships to find out the support available to them by calling a helpline, 07773 209943, which is staffed from 8am to 8pm, seven days a-week
For those who are online, a full list of groups offering help is available by area at the council’s website.
Chief Executive of Southern Brooks Community Partnerships, Julie Close, said: “The power of communities and the people who live here is making such a difference at this time, and the mutual aid groups are amazing.”
Amazing work has also been going on in South Gloucestershire homes – and a village hall – to produce vital personal protective equipment.
Volunteer group Hack the Pandemic was born out of a Facebook group for 3D printer users to help make up the shortfall in PPE for medical and care workers on the front line in the fight against COVID-19.
So far members have produced 10,000 face covers, almost 6,000 mask clips, and more than 1,500 ‘DoorMate’ tools, which enable people to turn a door handle without touching it.
They have given the equipment away to health and care workers, police and schools, with funding for the supplies of plastic and printer spares coming via a JustGiving crowdfunding page which has raised more than £17,000.
The equipment is prepared for delivery or collection at Emersons Green Village Hall and, having paused production after the government insisted designs were put through a new certification process, they are set to go into production again.
Another group, Scrub Hub Bristol, was set up to make scrubs for NHS and care workers, keeping them supplied during April and May.
Picture: Volunteers at Hack the Pandemic have produced thousands of items of personal protective equipment, such as this face shield used by a worker at Southmead Hospital