‘Snowball’ effect of treasured volunteers

A CALL for volunteers to band together to help vulnerable neighbours at the start of the pandemic “snowballed” and led to West Byfleet Coronavirus Support group.

Emma Osborne, who runs her own recruitment business, had been watching news reports in alarm at how quickly the virus was spreading in China and Italy.

Speedy: Andrew Scouler on his commuter bike for West Byfleet Coronavirus Support, delivering two prescriptions from opposing ends of West Byfleet within half an hour of the requests

“Knowing this was going to be big and scary, on 19 March I looked on Facebook to see if there was a local volunteering group I could get involved with,” she said. “Realising we didn’t have one, I set one up.

“I asked my next-door neighbour to join and printed off some leaflets and posted them through neighbours’ doors. It snowballed and now we have 279 members in West Byfleet, Woodham, New Haw and Pyrford.

“These are our treasured volunteers and have come to the rescue with many errands, whether it is shopping or delivering prescriptions, as well as more unusual requests – gardening, podiatry, anniversary cards, spectacle-fixing service and lifts to hospital for x-ray and eye appointments.”

For Emma, who only moved to the area in January, the group has provided a real sense of community, a beacon of positivity amid the strangeness of the coronarvirus outbreak.

“It’s kept me going and I think a lot of the volunteers have benefitted from doing something that they know is a help to others,” she said. “We know people are grateful for the reassurance the group brings, that they know someone can help them if they need it.

“We have a core team of 10 coordinators and two prescription delivery drivers. They are a marvel! And a dedicated IT specialist, Amy Lewis, who has helped me beyond belief.”

Contact West Byfleet Community Support on free phone number 0800 048 9991, or visit the group’s Facebook page.

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