Welcome to the second part of our four part series celebrating the amazing work of fantastic individuals and groups supporting residents across Doncaster.
This post is written by Hannah McWilliams, Well Doncaster Officer for the Central Locality and highlights what has been happening in the centre of Doncaster and beyond.
As a new officer in post in February 2020, there were many plans for Well Doncaster to establish connections and networks in central Doncaster. My focus was on carrying out an appreciative inquiry with residents to understand their priorities and work together to build on the communities strengths. Plans were starting to form to establish peer support groups for COPD, Diabetes and Fibromyalgia within Balby and Intake but then… lock down happened.
All my attention turned to finding a new way to work from home and supporting voluntary, community and faith (VCF) groups. As part of the Well Doncaster team we lead on supporting the VCF sector in response efforts and this meant supporting groups access PPE and food supplies to the so they could continue to work hard throughout lock down. During this time, I have seen how willing groups and organisations are to support those in need. I have worked with many during the last 5 months and all have done a brilliant job in providing essential items and services to the most vulnerable residents within their community.
St John’s Church in Balby has always been one to help their community and offer support where possible. Lock down did not stop them and they have continued that generosity and willingness over the last 21 weeks. Throughout the pandemic, Reverend Alun Price and his wife, Lay Preacher Jane Price, and volunteers have supported over 4,200 residents with food parcels, hygiene items, small electrical household items, clothing, games and essential items for the homeless. As a result, in July they were able to rename their clothes and food bank “multibank”.
Like everyone, the church have had to find a new way of working safely and efficiently. More recently, a successful funding application with DMBC allowed them to buy essential items like a trolley to easily transport of supplies, social distancing signs and a full clear screen to make it easier to talk to people safely. The church also kindly accepted the offer of 250 face coverings to distribute to the wider community and community groups in need.
In the South of Balby, Balby South’s Community Engagement Society has put in over 4200 hours of voluntary work, delivered over 5000 food parcels and prescriptions and worked 7 days a week for 21 weeks! There was such a demand for the support on offer that the society have managed to expand the support they are offering to cover Balby, Hexthorpe, Town Flats, Hyde Park, Woodfield Plantation and Dominion. They have now termed their society ‘Balby and Hexthorpe Community Engagement Society’ to reflect this.
The hard work doesn’t stop there! Shaun and Co are holding a sponsored bike ride and all donated funds will support the Riverside charity and society in re-starting events and community sessions at Galsworthy close. The ride will start at Waverley Academy Primary School and continue to Cleethorpes, covering an amazing 60 miles. Donations are welcome and you can donate here.
Support is still on offer to vulnerable, older residents and families between 9am – 5pm on Monday’s to Thursday’s. Funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, South Yorkshire Community Fund, Greggs and other local pots have enabled them to carry on the good work and stay open until September.
People Focused Group in Intake are a peer support group for people experiencing mental health issues. During these trying times, they have been on hand to support some of the most vulnerable residents across Doncaster. They have handed out approximately 200 food parcels a month during lock down. At a time where the nation was socially distancing from friends and family, they were on hand to offer virtual counselling through face time and telephone calls. More recently, they have opened ‘peer pods’ where residents are able to chat outdoors and join in socially distanced activities. All their hard work has featured in the monthly VCF newsletter which can be found here.
B:Friend continued to support older residents across Doncaster when social isolation was a major cause for concern during lock down. They switched up what would normally involve weekly visits to clients’ houses and made contact online, via telephone and letters. They have worked hard to ensure older residents had essential items delivered to their doors when needed. Deliveries have also included social packs and mix tape audio CDs to keep everyone entertained! Many residents have now been assigned a ‘buddy’ and keep in regular contact and offer social support to one another.
They are currently recruiting b:frienders. If you are interested and willing to help those that are at risk of social isolation, you can sign up here.
Florence and her team of volunteers at Pioneer Social Enterprise Ltd have done a tremendous job supporting the local residents over the last five months. An average of 36 food parcels have been offered to older residents and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities throughout lock down in and around the local area of Tickhill Road in Balby. All volunteer’s at Pioneer live with mental health problems, have learning difficulties or disabilities or are retired, and what is even more impressive is that all their work has been done on foot!
There have been a number of retailers, charities and local businesses offering a helping hand in supporting the response to the pandemic. So a very big thank you to the following for all their hard work:
- Premier Inn,
- Travel lodge
- Premier foods
- The Hygiene Bank
- Tesco Express
- Doncaster Stories
- Bloomsbury Publishers
- KD Davis
- Astrea Woodfield Academy
- One stop
- Black Oliver Pizzeria
- The Baker shop
- Food Aware
- Royal Mail
And many other local businesses
St John’s church, Pioneer Social Enterprise, Balby South and Hexthorpe Community Engagement Society, Agape Life Chapel and Bessacarr FC have all been part of a successful collaborative South Yorkshire Community Fund application supported by the Well Doncaster team and this will go towards future projects around food poverty. So, hopefully more successful stories like the one’s mentioned above in the coming months and year!