A NETWORK of community volunteers has completed more than 1,000 tasks for people isolated or shielding during the pandemic in its first year of work.

The Knaphill, St John’s, Brookwood (KStJB) Volunteers Support Group was started by local resident Sonal Sher as news of the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the world, with national lockdowns.

Sonal told the News & Mail this week that she came home on Friday 13 March 2020 from a discussion about the pending looming crisis and posted a request on Facebook for volunteers to help pick up medical prescriptions and do shopping for people in the area unable to leave their homes.

“Seventy to 80 people said they would help and from the 19th to the 22nd we handed out leaflets with a helpline number and email,” she said.

Sonal said her group shared information with others in the area, such as Horsell Prepared, and volunteers across the country who were gearing up for the effects of the imminent lockdown.

“There was an amazing sense of community. We were sharing what worked and what didn’t. The first two weeks were a massive learning curve as we had to change and the regulations changed,” she said.

The group were initially flooded with requests for help and soon a database was set up linking calls for help with the nearest available volunteer.

“In the early days, people isolated at home were very anxious but, as they realized that there was help, the anxiety levels dropped,” Sonal said.

She said the work helped the volunteers as well because it gave them a real sense of being able to contribute to the battle against the spread of the pandemic.

As well as practical help with shopping and prescriptions, KStJB volunteers also make regular “care calls” to isolated people and have made more than 700 of these.

Sonal said she was grateful to have the group featured in the News & Mail: “The coverage raised awareness among neighbours who didn't know this service was available. We also had people call in to volunteer after they’d read about the group in the papers.”

The group has a bank of 180 volunteers and continued operating during the easing of pandemic restrictions last year.

Sonal said the group has formed a community in which everyone can receive help, including those doing tasks for other people.

“It’s a proper community. Some of the volunteers have had to ask for help. One was diagnosed with coronavirus and so we helped them,” she said.

KStJB has expanded the help it provides, including fundraising to donate socks for the homeless and art kits for people on their own as well as the children of women being helped by the domestic abuse charity Your Sanctuary.

Sonal said the group will continue operating as long as there is a need.

“We will still be taking calls and helping out for at least another six months,” she said.

To contact the KStJB group, email [email protected] or call 01483 380801.

* THE first initial lockdown came into force on 23 March 2020 and a minute’s silence is planned at noon on the same date this year to remember all those who have died during the pandemic.

A Woking Borough Council spokesman said the council will be marking the national Day of Reflection and encouraged residents to join in the silence.