In early March, it was business as usual for St Helens Borough leisure centres as they welcomed residents though their doors for their daily dose of exercise. Since then, one facility has acted as a community hub as a key part the borough’s response to COVID-19 – the biggest health crisis the country has faced in more than a century.
A team of redeployed St Helens Borough Council staff have been stationed there, tasked with coordinating the supply and distribution of food and other essential items to vulnerable residents who can’t get out to the shops – or sadly, can’t afford to buy food and vital supplies as a result of the pandemic.
Between 30 March-21 June, 1,248 food parcels – each packed with more than 20 staple items – have been delivered to the doorsteps of residents, with 162 children provided with food parcels during the May half-term holiday.
In addition to that there have been 89 children’s food boxes delivered to support 178 children as part of the general food parcel offer.
One local resident who has depended on the service is 38-year old unemployed single mum of four, Karen, from Thatto Heath, who found out about the hub from her child’s school.
Karen said: “Do not struggle – phone up and get some help if you need it. With the kids being off, I had struggled for a while and then I heard about the hub through school.
“I rang up and got help straight away. The volunteers are absolutely brilliant and very nice – and stick to social distancing rules. It’s fabulous.”
The community hub forms part of St Helens Together – an initiative set up by St Helens Borough Council in partnership with a range of voluntary groups brought together by HSVCA as a way of bringing together people who want to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Paul Jameson is just one of a number of local Covid-19 volunteers whose day to day role has seen him collect and deliver shopping for people who are unable to leave their homes for one reason or another.
Paul, from Newton-le-Willows, applies for volunteering tasks through a mobile app and then contacts the resident for their grocery list and arranges a time to go shopping which he then drops off.
“I felt that in these difficult times if there was something I could do to help somebody who was struggling with something as basic as getting their shopping done, it was the right thing to do,” he said.
“I believe that if you want to help yourself you need to help somebody else first.”
Hailing the impact of St Helens Together, St Helens Borough Council Leader David Baines said:
“From witnessing first-hand the incredible work going on behind the scenes at the community hub to meeting and hearing from inspirational staff and volunteers responsible for ensuring our most vulnerable have everything they need during such a turbulent time – the St Helens response to Covid-19 has been nothing short of outstanding.
“I’ve said all along that we would get through this situation together and knowing that all this amazing work is being carried out in our communities gives me every faith that we will.”
If you or someone you know would benefit from some help – whether it’s getting food and supplies, walking the dog – or just someone to talk to – contact the St Helens Together helpline which is open seven days between 8:00am-10:00pm by calling 01744 676767- or email firstname.lastname@example.org