‘You’re an angel from the sky’: Community support group ‘overwhelmed’ with response from town
- Credit: Archant
With health problems including diabetes, asthma and a heart condition, retired events organiser Paula Prince was faced with no choice other than to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis.
But, determined to stay connected to her community, the Sheringham grandmother-of-two has become one of the driving forces of a support group for vulnerable people, helping co-ordinating a befriending scheme and food and prescription deliveries from the comfort of her living room.
When she retired four years ago, Mrs Prince, 66, fulfilled a pledge she made with her late husband to move to Sheringham, and quickly became involved in community life.
Her organisational skills, which have seen her co-ordinate events ranging from cycling rallies and literature celebrations, to a yarn bombing event and a sausage festival, have stood her in good stead as the town’s carnival vice-chairman, so when she heard about a scheme being set up by a handful of town councillors, she was keen to get on board.
Called Sheringham Community Support (SCS), the group aims to offer help, advice and support to every household in the town by recruiting volunteers on a street by street basis.
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With the town already boasting a 300-member Facebook group set up by two local mums to deliver aid to local people in need, SCS aimed to “fill the gaps”, Mrs Prince said.
The response had been “amazing” she added, with just 15 of Sheringham’s 136 streets still needing volunteers.
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“We already had a group called MASH which is doing an amazing job, but we wanted to make sure that nobody was being missed out,” she explained.
SCS volunteers can help with picking up prescription medicines or doing shopping for those unable to leave their homes, also collecting parcels, signposting people to other services, or offering a friendly phone call through a newly-launched befriending service.
Those signing up as volunteers are given an information pack including advice on adhering to social distancing measures, as well as information on local businesses offering a delivery service and a contact card to print off and deliver to every household in their allotted street.
Mrs Prince, whose son and his husband live next door and have also signed up as volunteers, said that being separated from her own family gave her an insight into how isolated many people felt.
“My daughter and grandchildren are in Leicester and although I don’t drink, I love going to the pub - I’m a very sociable person and I know how difficult it is,” she said. “What makes it particularly hard here is that 45 per cent of Sheringham people are over 70 and many of them don’t use social media, so the idea was to try to help by doing as much as we can for people at the same time as keep them and ourselves safe.”
Sheringham deputy mayor Liz Withington, who is co-ordinating the scheme, said she felt “incredibly proud” of the town’s residents, whose response had been “overwhelming”.
“Having regular contact with one person will hopefully prevent problems from occurring and reduce the workload of volunteers,” she said.
“A blind lady has been helped with regular dog walking for her assistance dog; a lady has been identified as living with dementia and will now have regular support from a dementia friend; we have shared live lists with the health centre to help them direct support, and several worried families with elderly parents have been helped to set up phone orders which have been delivered by volunteers.”
Mrs Withington, who also founded Sheringham Dementia Friendly Community group, added that a number of local groups and organisations had stepped in to help with the scheme.
She said: “I think is has drawn the community itself together, the relief from people who have received support has been palpable and one resident described a volunteer as an ‘angel from the sky’.”
For more information about Sheringham Community Support, or to sign up as a volunteer, phone 074236 77192, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the SCS Facebook page.
Mutual Aid Sheringham (MASH) is also offering advice and help with tasks ranging from shopping and taking out dustbins, to topping up pre-payment cards, posting letters and sourcing out-of-stock esssentials. Visit the Mutual Aid Sheringham Facebook page for more information.