For people without family, friends or neighbours to lean on during the pandemic, community support organisations and the voluntary sector partners they are working alongside have provided a lifeline.

That support will remain in place during the current national lockdown and beyond.

Jo Ellis has been volunteering with community support organisation Age UK Scarborough and District. Jo, who lives in Staxton, started volunteering in March last year in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

Age UK Scarborough and District CEO Julie Macey-Hewitt said: “Jo started by shopping and collecting prescriptions. When the first lockdown finished she also started working in our charity shop in Eastfield. She’s also volunteering for Ryedale Carers and is an NHS responder.

Jo said: “I’d been wanting to do some form of volunteering for a long time, and at the end of last year I approached St Catherine's Hospice. I had literally had all checks and been accepted when the pandemic began. I’d only been volunteering for six weeks when they had to stop volunteers entering the premises.”

Jo was disappointed no longer to be able to help and quickly looked around to find something else she could do.

She said: “It came up on my Facebook news feed that there was a need for volunteers in the community. I put out a message to say that I was interested in helping, and received a reply from Julie.

“I had just had my DBS check, so I was good to go. I started doing people’s shopping and collecting their prescriptions, and now I have my own people who I ring every week.

“They’ve become friends and are very interested in what I've been up to, especially as they can't go anywhere or do anything themselves.

“I ring them all on a Monday and ask what shopping they would like. I try to do it in as few journeys as possible. I usually plan a route via Sainsbury's and Morrisons and then get milk and prescriptions. It's like a treasure hunt sometimes.

“I'm also an NHS responder. I signed up when they first asked people to. It varies what you do. You have an alarm on your phone to say someone needs help and then you press a button to accept or reject.”

Jo said the number of calls she received can vary from day to day, often it’s one or two, but on the first day of the second lockdown she had seven.

Jo also volunteers for Ryedale Carers. She said: “Age UK don’t cover Staxton, so I signed up for Ryedale Carers so that I could help people in the village.

“At the end of the day, it's something you can do if you're shopping for yourself. If you approach Age UK and say I don't have much time, but I'd still like to help, they’d find someone near to you.

“I've never been so busy, but honestly l love it. The reward is that you're appreciated.”

Jo Ellis

Julie added that more volunteers are needed.

She said: “Shopping is the biggest thing we need people for, but we also require telephone befrienders. The covid hub is still providing support to the people of Scarborough and the surrounding area and we are not here just to help those who are elderly, or clinically vulnerable.

“We’ve also been helping people like single parents who find themselves suddenly housebound when one of their children is asked to self-isolate by their school. It’s important that we’re getting to people who don’t normally ask for help and letting them know we’re here.”

If you need help with shopping or other essentials and don’t have family, friends or neighbours to lean on, you can contact us and we will direct you to support in your area. Complete anonline form to let us know what help you need.

We are currently dealing with a high number of phone calls, so please use this form if you can. For people who do not have access to the internet, our contact centre is open seven days a week between 8am and 5.30pm so please call 01609 780780.

We know that many people will want to get involved in their communities and help where they can. Please keep checking on people locally who might need a hand with things like shopping, collecting medication or just having someone to talk to. Find advice about how to help safely.

If you have the time and want to volunteer, we can introduce you to local organisations in your own community. Find out how you can help.