This week is National Volunteers’ Week and there is no better time to high five the hundreds of people who help make York the caring city it is.
Volunteers in York make a massive difference.
We are lucky to have a proactive community regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, but the crisis has seen numbers of people giving their time to help others increase exponentially.
The council received over 3000 applications to volunteer during the pandemic. Local charities and the NHS also had applications flooding in.
Delivering prescriptions and making welfare calls
One charity that re-invented its whole service provision is Move the Masses. With their walking buddy scheme and pop-up workouts put on hold, they moved on to provide prescription deliveries and welfare calls to hundreds of isolated people. They have delivered over 1500 prescriptions, by a merry band of mostly cycling volunteers, and made a staggering 260 hours of welfare calls.
Here’s what their CEO, Egg, had to say:
Our volunteers have been keeping in contact with over 150 people who have asked for support; this has been through a combination of welfare phone calls, letter-writing and more recently, a distanced doorstep chat. We’ve been able to take action when any support needs are raised, such as shopping requests, prescription collections and even arranging urgent and essential household tasks.
We’ve also been running a really successful prescription delivery service. Volunteers are delivering medication directly from pharmacies or responding to urgent requests which come from a variety of referral partners. Having one of our friendly volunteers deliver a prescription is great because they have time to check in with people, offering that extra bit of social contact and reassurance.
The Pig and Pastry started providing free meals to vulnerable people initially using up left over stock when the lockdown saw them close. Since then they have raised thousands of pounds, clubbed together with many other food providers as The Supper Collective and seen volunteers delivering meals all over the city to both the vulnerable and front-line NHS staff.
Not only that, they have also just won best community project in The Telegraph’s Lockdown Awards.
Foodbanks have seen their usage increase substantially and two local Fulford residents have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness and funds for the Foodbanks in innovative ways.
School Teacher Sarah Wilson ran 18 miles along the streets of every child in Early Years at Fishergate Primary School raising over £1000 for The Trussell Trust and she and Spiderman have been out and about in the Fulford area providing a safe ‘drop off’ point for people to donate to York Foodbanks.
Food parcels and helping residents
Community Hubs have been set up by the council to get food to the most vulnerable people in the city in the form of hundreds of food parcels and meals being delivered by volunteers daily. A city-wide operation encompassing York’s Foodbank, the Council’s community hubs, community meal providers and local food businesses are helping ensure people get the food they need.
In the community, volunteers with specialist skills are matched with residents who need support and community hubs have linked with local residents to help with the food delivery.
Other volunteers are giving a wide variety of support, from helping residents with their pets to organising repairs to essential household items and also helping set up IT, getting people connected online.
Supporting people with sight loss
MySight York told us that without their volunteers they could not have responded so quickly to the challenge of supporting people with sight loss through Covid-19. Their staff team and volunteers are keeping in regular contact with around 100 people who otherwise might be at increased risk of isolation, calling for a weekly chat and to check on their wellbeing.
Volunteers are also helping to run various social and support groups via phone and Zoom at the moment. Book Group, Mobile Technology group and Esme’s Room (support group for people who experience visual hallucinations) are all running this way.
Mysight will also be working with a team of volunteers from City of York Council, delivering specialist equipment to help with the challenges of daily living with sight loss, straight to people’s doorsteps.
Deborah from MySight went on to say:
We know that this support is highly valued: people have told us, ‘I really appreciate the calls as I do feel cut off…They give me another window on life… It makes you feel someone cares…It’s so cheering.’
Huge thanks to all our volunteers: we literally could not do this without you!
GoodGym York could no longer provide the mass community based tasks they were well known for and have moved on to grocery shopping and deliveries for people who are shielding or unable to safely get their own groceries. Their red T-shirted volunteers can be seen running and cycling with rucksacks and panniers filled with much needed provisions all over the city.
Counselling and online group activities
Yvonne at Kyra told us:
Kyra volunteers are reaching out to over 168 women in York and area to give support through email, phone and text. Many of our groups continue through Zoom eg Kyra Voices, poetry, crafts, Mindfulness.
Our Counsellors continue to work remotely and give essential support.
As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week I have never been so proud of the commitment and care Kyra volunteers are showing at this time.
Supporting the homeless
Carecent had to close its physical doors, but that did not stop them moving on to providing daily packed lunches for the rough sleepers of the city. Here’s what Nicky, Carecent’s Manager, told us:
Carecent volunteers have been adjusting to a very different way of working. Instead of making breakfasts, teams of two volunteers have been making 50 packed lunches, six mornings a week, and delivering them to the various hotels and B&Bs which are currently accommodating rough sleepers.
A number of our wonderful volunteers fall into the older age groups, and very reluctantly had to step back at the beginning of the crisis, however teams have stayed in touch over Zoom and Whatsapp, and everyone has played their part in keeping the wheels turning. Some have joined the packed lunch rota, some have collected and delivered donations, and others have kept morale high with emails and phone calls.
Who knows what the next stage will be? The only certain thing is that the wonderful team of volunteers at Carecent will meet the challenge with their customary resilience and good humour.
York Neighbours told us that although COVID-19 has brought changes to how they operate, their volunteers are still helping older people in York with a range of one-off essential tasks. They are shopping, sorting out electronic equipment such as TVs and ipads, taking some bin bags to the outside bin for a neighbour who is self-isolating, and DIY tasks such as installing keysafes.
One Neighbour said – after receiving shopping help – “This has really eased my worries and is one less thing I need to worry about. Thank you.”
Another who had help connecting with family and friends on her Ipad said, “I am full of praise for James and his help. He was polite and knowledgeable.”
Giving older people their voice
Older Citizens Advice York’s (OCAY) team of volunteers have continued to offer their time to support older people during the lockdown. OCAY moved quickly from face to face meetings to offering the advocacy service over the phone.
Our volunteers have helped older people with many different types of issues; applying for benefits such as attendance allowance and ESA, have a fallen tree removed from their garden, helping to make complaints about care of relatives, providing information about making wills, accessing care assessments and online shopping. Our volunteers are special and they give us the most precious resource, their time. Without our volunteers OCAY would not be able to support older people. Last financial year we supported 328 people, so far this year we have supported 35 older people.
And really that is only a handful of the good that is happening all over our city because super people volunteer their time to help others.
Volunteers of York, you rock.