Thursday 24th September 2020
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Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the May 2020 issue

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A growing network of support among neighbours and local organisations is building even stronger foundations for life after lockdown.

Rev Michelle Godbold, priest for Navenby, Wellingore, Harmston, Coleby, Boothby Graffoe and Temple Bruer, launched Graffoe Parish Coronavirus Community Care to help isolated older people, carers and single parents needing support, or those unable to get to shops.

“We set up a telephone contact system for daily calls to check on people during lockdown, as well as those self-isolating or ill. People put themselves on the list for a call and we organise delivery teams to drop groceries and medicines off at people’s homes,” explained Rev Godbold.

So far more than 70 volunteers have joined the group to help with shopping and prescription pick-ups, as well as a befriending service.

“We have others to fill the gaps if someone falls ill and our team is growing with 17 on the phones from our extended ministry team and up to 40 on deliveries. We try and help as many people as we can, but concentrate on those who are stuck at home.”

Rev Godbold paid tribute to local businesses and shops which have played a vital part in the community effort, including leading Lincoln based hospitality and outside catering specialists the Salted Orange Food Company, which teamed up with Age UK to supply three ready prepared home-cooked meals a day, seven days a week for £20, as well as the Black Peppermint Food Company which supplied deliveries of fresh food boxes before food supplies were affected by stockpile buying in supermarkets.“The staff at our local Co-op store in Navenby have also been extremely helpful in helping to support our volunteer shopping service, as well as the Lincoln Gin Company which provided alcohol for hand sanitiser. We’re also grateful to Andreea Serban from Wellingore Ironing and Alterations Service who made 60 masks from cotton sheeting for our volunteers and Lianne Darley Design Studio in Navenby for the rainbow cards which go out with our shopping deliveries.

“I’ve been amazed by how quickly it’s all come together; it’s a real privilege to be part of this community effort.”

For more information or to volunteer visit the Facebook page ‘Graffoe Parish Coronavirus Community Care’, or tel: 01522 426723.

GOOD NEIGHBOUR SCHEMES FLOURISH
Joining forces with Rev Godbold to spearhead community support is Marianne Overton MBE, LCC independent councillor for Bassingham and Welbourn and for the Cliff Villages on North Kesteven District Council, who is helping to set up and support local voluntary groups.

So far Marianne has initiated or supported five groups in the Cliff Villages, from Harmston to Leadenham, with 11 in the area she represents locally.

“The government uses the term ‘Mutual Aid volunteer groups’, but I call them self-help, good neighbour schemes,” says Marianne, who with the help of other independent councillors, put together and shared a proposal plan and a letter to parish councils and then the public inviting action.

“After discussion, I provided the phone and sim card for two groups, got local shops engaged, parish councillor support and local volunteers, who found many more volunteers, and then linked with the church groups. These are ably co-ordinated by the Rev Michelle Godbold and supported by Rev Christine Goldsmith in the south.

“Reverend Godbold has been marvellous in setting up early with trained, known volunteers to help people on the phone and our discussions were helpful in getting the admin right. 

“We knew a support group was needed when we saw vulnerable people and whole households were expected to self-isolate. This included a group from our local secondary school who were on their way to a ski trip in northern Italy just before the lockdown began. They returned immediately and then their whole families were expected to go into household isolation. There was much discussion on social media calling for a local scheme, so together we set one up, followed by another.”

Marianne says it took just 48 hours to get the logistics in place and recruit volunteers for the tasks.

“We have around 200 volunteers, supplemented with support from our parish councils,” says Marianne.

“Volunteers collect shopping, medication or other essential supplies for individuals or families who are self-isolating, and deliver these supplies to their home.

“In this wartime theatre, we are pulling together to support each other, while keeping ourselves and our families safe too. The government is providing food parcels to the individuals identified by their GPs as clinically vulnerable and expected to stay at home for three months.

“However, there are many millions of people who have a vulnerable person in their household or have Covid-19 symptoms and are self-isolating as instructed, but without family nearby so we provide the basics.”

Marianne says she has been impressed by how communities have pulled together: “The volume of work so freely given to help others is astounding. Sometimes it’s those already busy with their own families, work, and still pulling out all the stops to assist others. The local shopkeepers are a joy to have in our community, and provide vital and much loved services.

“We carefully follow the NHS guidelines, especially on social distancing, hand washing and I like to wear clean gloves when out. More of our volunteers might like to add more skills as we go along.

“The lockdown happened very quickly and it is important to get a good neighbour group up and running in every area to serve when we are most needed. People cannot follow the NHS instructions without help at hand, so to protect the NHS and save lives, we can help people stay at home!”

Marianne says the groups are “in it for the long term”.

“Welbourn Volunteers and similarly Leadenham Volunteers were so named to make it easy to continue as a good neighbour scheme after the epidemic has ceased.”

She can also offer advice to others looking to set up similar groups: “The national news is pretty frightening and a little support at the right time is hugely appreciated. Every area has people helping out their neighbours. By getting it organised one can add to their efforts and make sure they can continue in the long term. If people haven’t already got a group and would like some ideas, I can email out an example pack or ask your local council.”

Information leaflets have been distributed with the numbers for each self-help group in the area, or to find out more contact Cllr Overton via email Cllrm.overton@lincolnshire.gov.uk, tel: 07920 235 364 or visit www.independentvoice.org.uk

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