Selfless band of volunteers do over 600 jobs for the vulnerable in Cornwall villages

From picking up prescriptions, delivering groceries and walking dogs, to digging gardens, arranging food bank parcels and driving people to hospital appointments – a band of selfless volunteers have carried out more than 600 jobs for vulnerable people in the Truro area. Community volunteers have been helping vulnerable people in Threemilestone and Shortlanesend cope with the impact of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions since March. More than 80 Threemilestone residents have been helped by 35 volunteers from the patrol group set up to help tackle anti-social behaviour in the village. 

“While the official lockdown did not begin until March 23, it had become increasingly apparent at the beginning of the month that national restrictions were going to be introduced in the UK and many local residents had already begun to self-isolate,” said the group’s co-ordinator Russell Keeble.  “We wanted to make sure that we had a system in place to help the vulnerable members of our local community.”

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Within days of first appealing for volunteers, the team had delivered flyers offering support to homes around the village, and posted information on notice boards, in the village magazine and on social media. After setting up a special What’s App group to manage the requests for help, providing personal protective equipment and photo ID for the volunteers and making arrangements with the local shops and the pharmacy to pick up shopping and prescriptions, the volunteers were ready to go.

While the arrangements with the local shops worked well, some volunteers initially found themselves queuing for long periods as the supermarkets struggled to deal with the impact of panic buying. “The first couple of weeks were a little chaotic but then everything seemed to settle down,” said Russell. “Since then we have carried out 407 grocery runs and 133 prescription runs, provided people with lifts to hospital and GP appointments, done the odd spot of gardening and some simple DIY repairs, moved heavy items and helped people sort out food bank parcels and hardship loans. “Some volunteers who were keen to help but were not able to leave their homes because they were shielding provided a befriending service over the phone to people who were living on their own.”

Russell is incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped with the group and says that the enthusiasm and commitment of the volunteers demonstrates the strength of community spirit within the village.

Some of the Shortlanesend volunteers

The picture has been the same in Shortlanesend where members of the village’s Covid Support Group have supported vulnerable people in their local community. Initially set up by Chris and Susanne O’Brien, Ryan Penhallurick, Mark Harry, David Coad, Kelvin Walsh, Chloe and Karen Harding and Sue Emery, the group was soon joined by additional volunteers as the requests for help increased. “We issued every household with a red and a green card to put in their windows so people had an easy way of getting help if they needed it,” said Mark Harry, landlord of The Old Plough pub in the village and chairman of Kenwyn Parish Council.

“Ninety five per cent of households joined the card scheme, with members of the group carrying out twice-daily patrols around the village to check if anyone needed help.  We also asked members of the public to keep a look out during their daily exercise. “Within days we were being kept very busy doing shopping, dog walking, collecting prescriptions and carrying out other jobs for people living in the village.”

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Members of the group also organised a number of activities to help raise morale within the village. These included donating chocolate Easter bunnies to local children and using a flatbed truck owned by Active Groundworks to mountain a special exhibition of the children’s Easter drawings in the pub car park; staging a ‘village bake off’ competition and publishing a village book containing recipes, pictures, drawings, Facebook posts and poems.

Mark added: “We are truly blessed to live in an area that has been so drawn together and supportive.” Anyone who would like to join the Shortlanesend scheme going forward should phone 01872 830380. While the relaxation of lockdown restrictions has led to a reduction in requests for help the group in Threemilestone is still supporting around 20 to 25 people.  With many of the volunteers now back at work Russell is keen to hear from anyone living in the Threemilestone and Gloweth areas who could spare some time to support vulnerable people in their local community.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer or is interested in learning more about the other projects can contact Russell at russellkeeble@yahoo.com

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