Recognising Volunteers at the heart of Mid Suffolk Coronavirus response

Mid Suffolk District Council is saluting the unwavering community spirit within its neighbourhoods, as selfless heroes prove an incredible force in the fight against Covid-19.

We want to recognise and support the invaluable work of community champions rallying together to help vulnerable residents in these unprecedented times.

Volunteers have stepped forward to provide urgent supplies such as food and medication, despite facing their own challenges as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The BOB Foodbank has been set up by new Rector, Carl Melville, for the villages of Bacton, Wyverstone, Cotton, Wickham Skeith, Old Newton and Gipping. This is a temporary scheme to help both individuals and families who may be struggling at this time.

Revd Carl Melville said: “Providing food to families who might be struggling is just one way our villages have come together to help others. The Neighbourhood Schemes and other initiatives have been lifesavers to many. Households can contact me directly on 01449 781650 to ask for a food parcel containing the basics and essentials. We have no criteria as we realise people may need help for different things. All contact is confidential.”

Another lifeline for many is the Needham Market Coronavirus Support Group, which has co-ordinated a staggering 400 volunteers, as well as funding and delivering 5,000 leaflets to local residents containing a helpline number for those in need. Calls received so far have included requests to carry out food shopping, pick up prescriptions and send out letters on behalf of those who are self-isolating, in Needham Market and the surrounding villages.

It’s not only essential needs which are being met, the group has gone above and beyond to make life in lockdown more bearable, with one member donating a tablet to help a child’s home learning and another providing a cake to cheer up residents of a local care home.

Founder Tanya Alexanda said: “The volunteers are incredible. They are picking up much needed local care for their neighbours and I know friendships are being made. We recently received a handwritten note from the High Sheriff of Suffolk thanking us for the huge difference we are making. It was lovely to have acknowledgement for all our efforts but I’m a bit embarrassed about the attention. This isn’t an ego trip but a genuine desire to help and bring people together.”

This just a small snapshot of the desire to help in our district – over 1,600 volunteers have already signed up to the Home But Not Alone scheme, which was launched last month by the Suffolk Collaborative Communities Covid-19 Board. The initiative matches volunteers to callers of a helpline for our county’s most vulnerable, which is free to call on 0800 876 6926 and is staffed seven days a week, from 09:00 to 17:00. This hotline is for people without family or a friendship network to support them, and who require emergency assistance with care needs (including food), loneliness, or connecting with community volunteers. Although still in its early stages, the scheme has already received more than 1,300 calls, resulting in vulnerable residents receiving delivery of shopping and prescriptions from volunteers.

Mid Suffolk District Council is offering grants of up to £2,500 to support groups with increased costs incurred as a cost of coronavirus (COVID-19), including general running costs, ongoing staff costs, volunteer expenses, utility bills and purchasing of food or other consumables. Larger requests for funding will be considered under exceptional circumstances.

Now, in addition to offering financial support, and with so many different groups to recognise, the council is launching a #communitychampions social media campaign to encourage community groups to highlight what they are doing – making residents aware of what local help is available as well as generating further support and offers of volunteering. Taking part in the campaign couldn’t be easier, simply tag @MidSuffolk in your social media posts so that these can be shared.

Cllr Julie Flatman, Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing for Mid Suffolk District Council said:

“Our communities are a shining light in what is a very dark time for many, and I hope that this community spirit is one of the legacies of the pandemic. Although we are experiencing a crisis that affects us all, the desire to help others remains, as shown by the vital work of volunteers in Mid Suffolk.

To enable this good work to continue, we want to ensure support is in place for all volunteers. I’d encourage any existing community groups, as well as anyone wishing to help, to register on the Tribe Volunteer app, which is available on both Apple and Android.”

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