By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
WHEN we asked for volunteers last year, you came forward in astounding numbers – all 1,500 of you – each prepared to do whatever it took to keep your neighbours, friends and relatives, safe and healthy.
So you may well be surprised to learn that we are asking again for people to help because so many of you are now returning to your normal busy lives – work, the school run and the myriad other things that life throws at us.
But the need has not gone away. People still need help for all sorts of reasons and probably always will because it is not only during a pandemic that we need the support of each other.
We have proved in the Bay that if we all pull together, then we can get through just about anything, and as restrictions lift the scars of Covid’s far-reaching effects will be with us for years to come.
Loneliness and isolation was a reality before coronavirus and it will be again for some when the rest of us return to some sort of normality, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The kindness that was shown through numerous lockdowns and tier restrictions does not have to be consigned to a fading memory; it can become a significant part of the new normal instead.
A kind word – a cheery hello or a simple inquiry of a neighbour in the street or in their garden, does not take a lot, and an offer of help, no matter how small, takes little more than time.
A lot of our volunteers have been first timers and have enjoyed it so much that they are now planning to fit in volunteering as part of their busy lives – offering help in the evenings or at weekends.
Others have made firm friendships with those they have encountered along the way and intend to keep in touch – some meeting for the first time in person, having only ever met on the phone before.
Our vaccine marshals are needed now as much as they ever were as the number of vaccinated people in the Bay tops 80,000 – more than 60% of the whole population, no mean feat in just a few months.
However, we now begin the second round of jabs, that will take us another step closer to the day when we will all feel safe once again, and so the Riviera Centre will remain busy for a while yet.
Shopping and prescription collections, which were so important when people were shielding, have now all but ceased , but other needs, that have arisen as a direct result of COVID, will in some cases get worse before they get better.
Our volunteer specialist befrienders continue to work with people whose mental health has suffered through this crisis and sadly we expect those numbers to continue to rise.
The same goes for the financial support provided through the Torbay Community Helpline, about which we received another 20 calls last week, pushing the total to well over 400.
The Torbay Food Alliance is poised to deliver its 500,000th meal at some point in the next few weeks – a figure that is both horrifying (because of the sheer numbers of people who needthem) and incredible (because of the way communities have rallied to deliver them).
The Helpline itself has relied on dozens of volunteers to take calls from people needing help – 4,500 of them – and from people offering help, as already mentioned, 1,500 of them.
None of that support could have been provided without the herculean efforts of so many people, and as we move forward, we need that to continue to help rebuild shattered lives, broken economies and irrevocably changed futures.
In addition to the above, we have an immediate need for walking buddies to go out with people who have been shielding and who remain nervous about venturing outdoors or would simply like someone to walk with.
We also need volunteers to help out at our new drop-in centre at Temperance Street in Torquay to meet, greet, chat and be willing to learn how to direct people to the services they need, and we are offering training to get you started.
The Helpline on 01803 446022 continues to operate from 10am until 6pm Monday to Friday and on Saturday’s from 9:30am to 12:30pm so if you are able to volunteer, please give us a ring. We look forward to your call.