Surge of goodwill helps vulnerable through crisis

July 01 2020

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.
One of the first groups to form on Facebook and help others organise community response was the Covid-19 South Glos and Bristol group.
Emersons Green town councillor Matt Palmer is one of the founders of the group, which has expanded its scope to provide a permanent web page, www.thecommunityhub-basg.co.uk, which provides a place to ask for help, offer help and access valuable information and connections to services.
A group aimed at organising support in Emersons Green and Lyde Green was also set up. The COVID-19 Help, Support and Volunteering – Emerson’s Green & Lyde Green Facebook group has 377 members and provides a place where people in the area can ask for help, offer help, publish updates in coronavirus-related advice and publicise community events.
Matt said that, as well as offering practical and emotional support for people who have been affected by the virus and lockdown, Emersons and Lyde Green group volunteers had also made door-to-door foodbank collections, bringing almost a tonne of food for the Resound Foodbank in Mangotsfield, and organised two litter picks.
He said: “When we set up the Covid-19 South Glos and Bristol group, we never imagined how it would become such a focal point for the community across the area; support which is still very active to this day.
“As the numbers increased we knew that we wanted to have a long-term plan for the group and therefore set up our web page.
“We wanted something progressive and good to come out of a bad situation.
“What has been staggering has been the way communities have pulled together and how volunteers have supported this effort.”
Matt said volunteers were working in partnership with charities such as Southern Brooks Community Partnerships, community development workers, existing community groups and councils.
He said: “We want to develop something to continue the amazing community spirit, kindness, compassion and togetherness that has brought people through this awful pandemic.”
To ask the Emersons Green and Lyde Green COVID-19 support group for help, or to volunteer, you can call 07714 581 366 or email emersonsgreenca@gmail.com.
The group can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/EandLG/.
In Pucklechurch, support has been provided by the Pucklechurch and Shortwood Good Neighbours group, whose volunteers have been helping with shopping and transport.
They also set up a food bank, which distributed more than 70 aid packages to people in need. To find out more, look them up on Facebook or email Email: goodneighbours@pucklechurch.org
Also providing support in the area is the BS16 Covid-19 Community Care group, which helps coordinate offers of help and people in need across the BS16 postcode area.
Volunteer coordinator Sophia Gibbs-Foyle said: “The BS16 Covid-19 Community Care group was set up to connect members of the community who could help one another.”
The group matches its 258 volunteers with its bank of people shielding or self-isolating, providing support from food shopping and prescription collections to dog walking and providing phone buddies for a chat.
As well as online and email referrals at BS16covid19@gmail.com, the group has a phone helpline on 0808 168 5726 and also helps people referred by South Gloucestershire Council and charity Southern Brooks Community Partnerships.
In Mangotsfield, the residents association has worked with Staple Hill and Mangotsfield ward councillors Katie Cooper, Michael Bell and Ian Boulton, the Staple Hill Hub and Salvation Army to organise a team of volunteers to help with shopping, prescriptions and odd jobs for people in isolation.
An emergency food bank was set up at the Red Lion pub, working with landlady Mary West and with further support from Mitch Hore at the Grapevine, to provide and deliver food parcels and ready-made meals for people in need.
Volunteers also made personal protective equipment and biker group the Band of Hope made deliveries to hospitals and care homes.
MRA chair Clive Heath said: “It has been a fantastic effort by all involved; to my knowledge nobody has gone without shopping or prescriptions and nobody in need has gone with out food or toiletries.”
Help is also available from CVS South Gloucestershire, Age Concern UK and Southern Brooks Community Partnerships, who are working with the council to connect individuals with the help they need. The helpline – 07773 209943 – is staffed from 8am to 8pm daily and the team is also available by email at communitysupport@southernbrooks.org.uk.