Community champions the length and breadth of North Yorkshire have been doing their bit to help others during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Ahead of Volunteers Week (1 to 7 June), the County Council is celebrating the selfless acts of kindness that have made a huge difference to the lives of people in North Yorkshire, including some of the county’s most vulnerable residents since the outbreak of Covid-19.
In a co-ordinated joint effort with district councils, the authority has been working with 23 community organisations to match those without family, friends or neighbours to support from the voluntary sector.
As a result, more than 1,500 volunteers have been helping thousands of people every week with shopping, collecting prescriptions or just having someone to talk to as part of this network of community support organisations. There are also countless examples of neighbours looking out for each other and an army of volunteers who have formed groups where they live.
Those volunteers include Joanna Chambers from Marton, who is currently shielding to protect her nine-year-old son, William.
During lockdown Joanna has been helping by making regular befriending calls to others who are self-isolating through the community support organisation in Ryedale.
“My befriending experience has been so positive as I have been able to reach out to people I would never have met before at a time when I felt particularly isolated and unable to take positive action due to my own shielding situation,” she said.
Mick Hawes is another community champion who has been making a difference where he lives. He runs a football team in Sherburn, the members of which pooled their subs together to pay for hampers for those less fortunate than themselves.
Such was the success – the team raised more than £1,000 in a single day – that they were asked to get involved with the Sherburn Coronavirus Aid Group, helping with deliveries and leaflet drops.
“I think we kind of get tied up with the negative stuff that goes on in the world,” Mick said. “We forget that there are some wonderful folk and when the chips are down people are willing to roll up their sleeves. We’ve had a wonderful response and some of the offers of support and the lengths of people have gone to have been nothing short of remarkable.”
In Bedale, John Walker would normally be out and about volunteering with North Yorkshire’s countryside service, helping maintain public rights of way and supporting nature conservation.
Instead, he is helping with the local Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group as part of the helpline team. This involves putting people in touch with other volunteers who can help with shopping, collecting prescriptions and often just being there to talk to people.
“Beyond the many tragedies that coronavirus has brought, it has been heart-warming to see communities come together to help each other locally and it has been a privilege to be able to witness the steady rhythm of the natural world continue to move on through the seasons,” John said.
“I think everyone’s lives have changed forever and our world has changed completely. It’s shown us how much we need to work together.”
North Yorkshire County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les said: “This Volunteers Week, we want to thank every single person who is helping someone in North Yorkshire during the current pandemic.
“If you are volunteering as part of the community support organisation network, you’re at the heart of our response in making sure that nobody is left without essential supplies.
“We are also recognising those in towns and villages across the county who have set up groups where they live and individuals who have looked out for and supported neighbours during these challenging times.
“You might not consider yourself a volunteer, but you’re making a huge difference and you are a valued part of Team North Yorkshire as we work together to make sure nobody feels alone.”
People who are being shielded because they have underlying health conditions need to take even more precautions to protect themselves from the coronavirus and stay at home as much as possible. Although people who are being shielded are now able to go outside once a day for fresh air and exercise, Government advice for anyone in this group is to not go shopping, attend gatherings or visit other people’s homes.
Read the full guidance from the Government for people who are shielded.
Those in need of help who don’t have anyone else to call on, or anyone concerned about the welfare of someone else should contact North Yorkshire County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780. The centre is open seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm.