Thank you to Tendring volunteers as Essex unites to help the vulnerable
For all of the impacts Coronavirus has had on our lives, one aspect which has shone through is the spirit of people – and Tendring is no exception.
Volunteers old and new have stepped up to help their communities during these difficult times doing everything; from shopping and picking up prescriptions, to walking dogs, to chatting with those who are lonely or bereaved.
This Volunteers’ Week, running from 1 June to 7 June, Tendring District Council (TDC) would like to thank the residents of Tendring who have signed up in lockdown to help others in their time of need.
TDC has worked with around 70 voluntary groups during the Covid-19 pandemic, working with Community Voluntary Services Tendring (CVST) to support and co-ordinate these volunteers – and using their skills to benefit the wider community, and in particular those who are shielding.
One such group is Tendring Eldercare, a Clacton-based day centre running for 38 years, which shut ahead of lockdown but is continuing to serve not just its clients – the oldest of which is 101 – but the whole community through Covid-19.
Chairman Edward Bell, 28, explained that the group’s Covid-19 efforts began after he received a call from a man who had visited three supermarkets when people had been panic buying and could not get any food.
“He was scared,” said Edward. “He told me he had lived through the Blitz, but nothing scared him as much as this – it was heart-breaking to hear.”
From there Tendring Eldercare began delivering food parcels, beginning with personal money but soon getting grants – including from many TDC councillors who were each allocated £1,000 to support community groups in the Covid-19 response.
Initially the group supported their own clients and people they knew, but quickly expanded and worked with the Shield work set-up by the Government and carried out locally by TDC and Essex County Council to support those told to isolate because they were vulnerable. To date Tendring Eldercare has delivered around 800 food parcels – as well as collecting prescriptions and other supplies for people.
“You can be a single mum with cancer, or a 95-year-old man, we’ve been helping people who would not usually be vulnerable – they would usually still be independent, go to the shops themselves, but due to this virus their lives have been turned upside down,” said Edward. “And we are determined that no-one in our community goes hungry.”
As well as practical support, the organisation noticed people shielding were becoming bored and lonely; isolated mentally as well as physically. To tackle the issue Tendring Pen Pals was set up, where people write a general letter to be sent on to someone isolating.
The response has been incredible, with letters coming from all ages and from all over the world, including India, Australia, the USA, and Europe.
“We are getting beautiful letters with true interaction, it’s fantastic and is putting smiles on people’s faces and given them something to look forward to. I’m really proud of it,” Edward added.
New projects are on the horizon too, such as giving out bird feeders and seed to those isolating to attract wildlife to their gardens for them to observe and enjoy.
Overall Tendring Eldercare has a team of around 20 volunteers, and has been working closely with other charities and community groups around the district along with TDC’s Shield team.
“Everyone who has given up their time to help others is incredible, and projects like this would not happen without them. It’s easy to come up with an idea but another thing to get up and put yourself forward, on the frontline – people have been given a lifeline because of them,” Edward said.
“It is just tremendous what volunteers do and I applaud them all.”
Another group helping people through the pandemic is Harwich Helps, a hotline linking in an umbrella group of local charitable groups working in the town and surrounding villages.
The numbers speak for themselves. In just two months they have received 2,300 calls, provided 780 shopping trips, 140 prescription collections, 65 welfare visits, 2,000 meals and almost 1,000 food parcels.
It’s not just about the elderly but families too, with Harwich Helps supporting HomeStart during half-term providing meals for families who would usually get free school meals.
All of this has been carried out by an army of 152 volunteers, along with support from local businesses large and small.
Suzanne Howe, one of the Harwich Helps co-ordinators, praised the work of the volunteers.
“It has been a massive community effort; Harwich has always been a great place for community, but this has brought a new level of cohesion.
“Without those volunteers we would not have been able to do what we have done, and I am really proud to be a part of a wonderful group of people. It has been humbling experience.
“We want to carry on working together even when Covid-19 has passed.”
Neil Stock OBE, TDC Leader, praised the work of Tendring Eldercare, Harwich Helps, and all the volunteers right across the district.
“We have only highlighted here two organisations doing fantastic work in our community – but we could just as easily have picked any of the other 70-odd groups and hundreds of volunteers who are doing an incredible job,” Cllr Stock said.
“Their work has been invaluable in keeping our society running and protecting the vulnerable, both supporting our work and plugging any gaps as the fast-moving nature of the pandemic sometimes outpaced the national response.
“So on behalf of all of Tendring, I would like to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone who has played a part, however big or small, and volunteered in some way. You are a credit to us all.”
Find out more about Tendring Eldercare at www.tendringeldercare.co.uk or call 01255 476889. Harwich Helps can be contacted on 07708 124661, 07716 866927 and 01255 554115.
Anyone who needs support can also contact TDC’s Shield hotline on 01255 686700.
For more information on this news release contact Tendring District Council’s Communications Manager Will Lodge on 01255 686338.