As we know only too well our Community as well as the whole country has been in the grip of a pandemic since the Spring. To combat this virus the Government implemented stringent measures to keep people safe and reduce the pressure on the NHS. This lockdown stopped everyone from leading ‘normal life’ and we all had to adjust to the new circumstances. People with symptoms and their households were expected to self isolate for two weeks and other vulnerable categories were expected to shield themselves from contact entirely.
As a result there were large numbers of people in our village who could not visit shops or collect prescriptions and so the CoronaVirus Volunteers came together in a Whats App group to offer help and support.
The Group quickly engaged with the shop, the Vicar, the Surgery and the Parish Council to cover home grocery deliveries, prescription collection and pastoral care for those in distress. A fund was also established to provide financial assistance with food shopping.
A single hotline was set up, manned 24 hours a day by volunteers which was publicised through leaflet drops to all households and via social media.
All this swung into action and was fully operational by mid April with the shop adapting to deliver pick and package groceries and setting up a newspaper delivery service. The Surgery altered its procedures and allowed nominated volunteers to collect and deliver prescriptions. To support all this a small group registered ancillary whats App groups and rotas for call handling and shopping and also produced guidance and data protection policies.
Over the next three months this operation continued as restrictions gradually eased. It was formally wound down at the end of July but is ready to restart at short notice if the situation worsens.
At its peak the operation was taking over 30 calls a day, making over 20 deliveries and delivering 20 prescriptions both in and out of the village. There were also three leaflet drops to all households. It was a fantastic effort and full credit and enormous thanks should go to the 100 volunteers who came forward.
An honourable mention should go once again, to Russell and Emma Jenkins at Milverton Stores who fully supported the operation by employing extra staff and altering hours to accommodate the grocery deliveries. I would also like to pay tribute to Adele and Mark at The Globe who responded to the closure of their business by setting up a terrific and tasty take away service which gave many people an opportunity to have a break from home cooking! We are very fortunate to have these two businesses in our village, but at a time when local services are under pressure they do depend on our continued support.
A very big ‘thank you’ to all involved.
Councillor Gwil Wren
Somerset West and Taunton Council