Covid One Year On: Charities 'blessed' with community spirit

One Year On: How Covid has affected North Somerset's charities.

Kelly Croxton (left), the foodbank's administrator accepts a donation from Stay Fit Stay Sane Fitness. - Credit: Clevedon Foodbank

Community groups and charities will reflect on the loss and resilience shown by people in the past 12 months.

Throughout North Somerset, community-led initiatives have been launched during the pandemic, each with the goal of supporting people.

Nailsea Community Group, formerly Nailsea Covid Support Group, has evolved from a band of neighbours helping each other with their shopping to close to 200 volunteers.

Vice-chairman Jules Richardson estimates that more than 11,000 people combined have used the groups delivery service.

Ms Richardson said: “It started as a Facebook group for Covid support. It was very reactive to peoples' needs.

"In the beginning, we helped with delivering around 7,000 prescriptions and then 4,000 shopping trips. We were lucky with volunteering due to the level of community spirit - Nailsea Town Council were also very helpful."

The volunteer team has grown to more than 170 members.

Clevedon Foodbank fed more than 5,000 people in 2020

Needs a Coffee Hut handing over money to Sue Regen (right), Clevedon Foodbank's project manager. - Credit: Clevedon Foodbank

Clevedon Foodbank experienced a rapid rise in the number of residents reliant on its services during 2020 compared to previous years which eventually led to the creation of Yatton Foodbank.

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Trustee, Alison Kember, told the Times: "Usually we help around 2,000 to 3,000 people but the number surpassed 5,000 last year.

"One of the challenging factors during the pandemic has been social distancing. The foodbank aims to be a springboard and not a stretcher when helping people and that is harder when you cannot sit down and talk to people."

St Andrew's Church helps Clevedon Foodbank

St Andrew's Church Centre held Clevedon Foodbank's stock as it changed warehouse to ensure social distancing could happen. - Credit: Clevedon Foodbank

Ms Kember also noticed an increase in the number of people using the foodbank's school meals scheme following a national outcry for Government support led by Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford.

She added: "Our lunch bags were supplied to more than 600 people in four weeks which is more than the entire summer holidays in previous years.

"The foodbanks are very thankful to the Lions and Rotarians who have offered us transport and other forms of help throughout the pandemic."

Jan, working in the Weston branch's operations room.

Jan, working in the Weston branch's operations room. - Credit: Weston Samaritans

Another volunteer group that has experienced a rise in demand which can be linked to the coronavirus pandemic is the Weston Samaritans branch.

Director, Paul Slade revealed that one in five calls the group has received over the course of the pandemic mentioned the coronavirus in some form, with the majority being about the caller's mental health.

Mr Slade said: "One thing that we have observed on our end is that the first six months of the pandemic seemed to affect people with pre-existing mental health issues whereas, in the last six months, many people getting in touch are experiencing issues for the first time.

"Our volunteers provided more hours of service in Weston last year than any other year before via our 24-hour hotline. We are always here to help and our online service allows for self-assessments if you do not feel ready to talk to someone."

The Samaritans are available to call on 0330 094 5717 or by logging on to www.samaritans.org/branches/weston-super-mare

To make a donation to Clevedon Foodbank visit www.clevedondistrict.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food