The name Community Works was unfamiliar in Thirsk until a matter of weeks before the coronavirus pandemic struck last year – but it was quickly established as a mainstay of the community.

It emerged from a merger of two charities, The Clock and First Community Care, in an attempt to provide better and more efficient services.

In reality, the new charity was soon appointed as one of North Yorkshire’s 23 Community Support Organisations, there to provide vital assistance to residents, and went on to help astonishing numbers.

Although Thirsk and surrounding villages account for only around 8,000 people, since the start of the health emergency Community Works and the volunteers who make its work possible have helped more than one in ten of them.

The charity provided a host of services for those affected by the pandemic, from shopping trips and prescription deliveries to swapping library books.

But they were also quick to identify that for many, the simple comfort of a cup of tea and chat with a friendly face was what they needed most.

As the lockdowns and other restrictions have run their course, Community Works have adapted to meet the needs of residents, with volunteers unable to undertake face-to-face work making welfare checks by telephone, for example.

Abigail Homer said the needs of the public were easy to see, with some so desperate they would turn up at Community Works looking for help despite being asked to use only phones for contact.

Others, desperately worried about how they would cope, made contact from outside the area, where similar services were not so readily available.

Visitors at Community Works

As restrictions have loosened, more activities have been gradually brought back – safely – to group meetings.

They are smaller than normal and new locations have been found to allow them to meet, with a focus now on getting groups like walkers and cyclists back in action to help restore levels of physical exercise, which are known to have reduced over the last 16 months.

As time passes, it is hoped Community Works’ band of around 100 volunteers will be able to restore more of the many weekly sessions they run to a more familiar format.

Abigail said an early assumption that people could simply switch to contact through technology was quickly dispelled, with the realisation that many in the area do not have those connections.

“We started support groups as soon as we were allow to,” said Abigail, “We have tried to be as innovative as we possibly can be, to meet people’s needs.

“A lot of people want to have a cup of tea and a talk to someone else, so some of our groups meet for coffee, chat and quizzes.

“There are others who meet in our workshops, which have been focusing on social interaction. Not everyone lives with someone else and not everyone lives in ideal circumstances at home,” she said.

Community Works’ contribution goes beyond helping the lonely and isolated, however, employing apprentices and others through the Government Kickstart scheme to help those entering the workplace.

The Community Works enterprise is “an incredible team effort”, she said.

“When we decided to do a leaflet drop we asked for volunteers and 58 people came forwards and we covered 8,000 homes.”