Skipton Step into Action (SSIA) has been awarded charitable status less than a year after its formation thanks to the tireless work of volunteers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Most recently, volunteers have stepped in at Skipton General Hospital vaccination clinics assisting on car parking duty and transporting residents into the clinic.
Since March they have been providing services such as shopping, collecting prescriptions and running errands. They were formed to support those who are self-isolating, senior citizens and vulnerable people who do not have anyone they can call on for help.
Local County Councillor Andy Solloway is a Trustee and Volunteer Coordinator for SSIA. He said: “We are over the moon to become a registered charity which opens up new funding opportunities. Our success is down to the incredible group of volunteers who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic.
“Since the vaccine roll-out began myself and a group of volunteers have been helping out at the clinics. We have been on car parking duty, transporting people from their cars into the hub and even gritting during the bad weather if necessary.
“Our passion to provide the best possible support to local people drives a commitment to continually evolve and to utilise the skills, knowledge, connections and enthusiasm of the volunteers for the benefit of the community.”
North Yorkshire County Council has supported SSIA through grants to part-fund a fixed contract and purchase a laptop for the Project Manager. It has also funded a Zoom subscription to enable easier communications with the volunteers and to hold management committee meetings.
Its Stronger Communities team has supported the group in becoming a registered charity through provision of specialist consultancy.
"SSIA was introduced on March 12 last year as a voluntary community group in response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Project Manager Charlotte McKeown. “Stronger Communities have offered invaluable support from the outset and have played an integral role in our opportunity to ultimately register as a charity. I can’t thank them enough.”
SSIA has assisted in school meal deliveries and its Christmas elves scheme was well supported by businesses and local people who donated presents to vulnerable families.
They now offer a befriending service which can include socially distanced one-to-one help with shopping, technology, having a cup of tea and a chat, accompanied walks or just a phone call.
Befriending volunteer Sarah said: “My year with SSIA has helped me to gain confidence through training opportunities and meeting such a wonderful team of like-minded, caring people who have the same passion to help others. Helping people in our community who are lonely and isolated is very rewarding. It’s great to know you are making a difference to people’s wellbeing throughout these difficult times.”
Andy Solloway added: “Our befriending service has been used by people to provide reassurance about travelling to and having the vaccine. The pandemic has caused so many residents to feel isolated and lonely – particularly for those who were struggling in the first place.
“I’m so proud and humbled to play a small part in the work they do and with charitable status I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”
Support put in place by North Yorkshire County Council last March will carry on into the months ahead, even after the current national lockdown is lifted.
People who need support with shopping and other essentials are encouraged to contact family, friends, neighbours or groups they belong to. North Yorkshire residents without those local networks, or anyone concerned about the welfare of someone else, can contact the County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780 seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm. People can also complete an online form and find more information.