By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
We have some fabulous people here in the Bay who have stepped up to help their neighbours over the last few weeks.
One of the privileges of this job is that I get to talk to them and to convince them that their stories are worth sharing with others and that isn’t always easy.
More often than not, our conversations start with words to the effect that what they have done is not that special or that anyone would have done it, were they able. They genuinely have no real inkling of how important their efforts have been.
I have written it before in these articles that we knew we had some strong and resilient communities across the Bay but even we have been surprised by how strong and how resilient.
People like Lesley Bullock from Foxhole who as one of the shielded most vulnerable was determined to do something for others, despite not being able to leave her home.
Instead for the last 12 weeks, she has been picking up the phone for more than 18 hours a week to speak to nine people, offering the hand of friendship and the reassurance of a friendly voice.
A few weeks ago I got to meet (virtually of course) a man who we have come to refer to as a ‘super’ volunteer, not that Bob Ward would appreciate the addition of the super, he just thinks he is doing what needs to be done.
But Rita Thomson, on the other hand, would happily use the word super to describe him because she has been helped out by Bob since the beginning of April. A neck injury has prevented her doing either her shopping or her gardening, so Bob does it.
And those acts of kindness what we call #TorbayKind are happening in communities across the Bay, each and every day. To put it in context, I have had a look back at the work of the Helpline since it started way back on March 16th.
More than 9,000 calls have been made to the Torbay Community Coronavirus Helpline to teams of five dealing with, on average, 100 calls a day and at its peak, 350 calls in a day.
A rapid response team of community builders, wellbeing coordinators and volunteers have dealt with more than 2,300 requests for help from people who have run out of food or medication.
In total, nearly 750 people from across the Bay have come forward to volunteer and another 50 have set up Good Neighbour schemes to keep in touch with people living nearby.
Calls continue to run at around 100 a day from people needing help and people offering help and 450 volunteers have so far been matched to support people in need who live in their neighbourhoods.
The majority of volunteers, whether they be shopping, collecting prescriptions or making befriending phone calls once matched have remained as volunteers for the duration of the crisis.
Some of the more unusual requests for help have included transporting urine samples between doctors surgeries and patient homes. Others have been more refined with people seeking a few home comforts like sparkling water, a duvet cover, jelly and ice cream, a roast dinner, some very brand specific hand cream and that lockdown staple, hair dye. Our call takers have even been asked advice on protocol for attending a funeral during the crisis.
The Helpline is an unprecedented coming together of staff and volunteers from key charities across Torbay including the Torbay Community Development Trust, Age UK Torbay, Healthwatch Torbay, Citizens Advice Torbay and Brixham Does Care working alongside Torbay Council and Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, each offering their own area of expertise.
As the crisis has progressed the calls, whilst fewer, have become more complex and now provide triage support for callers with mental health issues as well as acting as a referral service for the Torbay Food Alliance.
The Torbay Food Alliance, a group of 12 organisations supported by the council, the NHS and TCDT, have so far delivered 4,105 food parcels and 19,729 ready-made meals to families and individuals across the Bay as well as 690 emergency meal kits for schools. That is the equivalent of 80,000 meals.
*The helpline number which continues to be staffed from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and 9:30am to 12:30pm on Saturdays is 01803 446022.
Amazing what a community can do when it comes together. As mentioned earlier, that is #TorbayKind