Shropshire's Good Neighbours making world of difference during pandemic

Loneliness, isolation and stress are some of the difficulties many people are facing during the pandemic, but a group of volunteers in Shropshire are offering a helping hand to their community.

Volunteer Kim Wootton helps out residents John and Joyce Hinton with shopping deliveries
Volunteer Kim Wootton helps out residents John and Joyce Hinton with shopping deliveries

Pontesbury-based Community Good Neighbours has been offering essential support to people who have found themselves alone or isolated, with health issues or even a change in circumstances.

Whether it has been running errands, such as collecting medication, or supplying a friendly voice and a regular chat, it has made a world of difference to those it helps.

Grandmother-of-one Sharon Davies, of Pontesbury, is one of the leaders of the new group.

“We found there are so many people who are lonely and unable to complete even simple tasks because of age or illness," she said.

“Some really struggle with mental health having spent months isolating and not seeing anyone.

"We got our heads together and started the group which is run by volunteers who just run errands and take to doctors or hospital.

“Others are befrienders who make phone calls each week and where possible see their new friend.

Kim Wootton

“The longer term plan is that when coronavirus is over they will provide help in the garden, take people shopping and to clubs. We already have a number of volunteers phoning and chatting to people each week.

“On the flip side we have found people who unbelievably live in poverty – we have been shocked to find this on our doorstep."

She said the group has started a hardship fund through which it is planning to help people who are referred through councillors and doctors.

“It may be to help buy a new cooker with a donation from us or it may be a pair of shoes for a child," Sharon said.

"Obviously, we will only be able to do this with support from fundraising and donations."

At the start of the pandemic, Sharon, who works in a bakery, rallied round and was able to get help from over 50 people to deliver prescriptions and collect shopping.

"I could also see there was a need for a food bank, especially in those first few weeks, so supported by the parish council and local businesses we were able to open one up in the New Pavilion," she said.

“We moved premises to the Congregational Church around August time and this remained open until the end of December.

"Thankfully, numbers had significantly decreased over the months and we felt it was the right thing to do.

“However, that does not mean support has stopped for The Rea Valley area.

"Following on from the volunteer group and food bank, a group of us have started up the Community Good Neighbours, supported by Pontesbury Parish Council, Pontesbury Medical Practise and Severn Hospice.

“We are able to offer volunteers to help collect medication and shopping and become befrienders – these are for people who have been highlighted during the pandemic as being lonely, vulnerable and in need of a friendly phone call once or twice a week.

“Moving on after the pandemic they will continue their befriending by helping in the garden, walks and whatever is needed.

"We also have set up a hardship fund so if anyone comes forward for food we are able to give a Co-op card with money on, or help with a purchase of school clothing.

“We really don’t know how it will work out as obviously we are limited to what we can do and what we can offer at the moment."

The group is also receiving donations from the Rotary Club of Shrewsbury Severn.

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