Sunday, 29 March 2020
COMMUNITIES in Henley and South Oxfordshire have come together to offer support to people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Groups have been established to help people with shopping and to support elderly residents in isolation and at risk of becoming lonely.
In Henley, youth and community project Nomad is offering residents supplies from its food bank.
The charity, which is based at the d:two centre in Upper Market Place, is also calling on people to donate unwanted foodstuff which it can then provide to the people in need.
It has asked people to donate toilet rolls, hand soap, sanitisers, tinned meats, UHT milk, cleaning products and pasta sauces.
There is a collection point at Tesco, off Reading Road, and the centre is open for donations from 10am to 2pm every working day.
Meanwhile, residents in St Andrew’s Road, Henley, have established a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with neighbours.
Organiser Nick Fox said: “I started the group with Sarah Gilbert, my neighbour, and we have 63 residents from the length of St Andrew’s Road with many, many offers to help.
“Our aim is to help those who are vulnerable and may need help as well as self-
isolators. It has been really well received and supported and I would encourage other roads to do the same.
“As much as the help itself, it is knowing that there are people willing and able to help. If others in the area wanted to join they can get in touch and we can add them.”
A support group has also been established to support vulnerable residents across the whole town.
It is called the Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group and has more than 1,200 members.
They have divided the town into areas each covering about 80 households.
Each one has a co-ordinator responsible for managing a team of street representatives, a finance representative and individual volunteers.
Member Emma Taylor said: “We want to make sure that everyone who needs help will get it, whether they need food delivered, a prescription picked up, or their dog taken for a walk.
“We are also looking at offering phone chats to help those who live alone avoid loneliness. We have already been contacted by people living outside Henley who have elderly relatives in the town and want to ensure they are looked after, as well as many people who want to offer to help.”
Ms Taylor, of Western Avenue, added: “It’s fantastic to see the town pulling together like this in a positive way in a difficult time.
“We are aware that some areas already have fantastic support groups and we are working with them and learning from them rather than reinventing the wheel.
“Care is being taken to prevent spreading the virus. Volunteers will not have personal contact with anyone and will keep 2m away or leave deliveries on doorsteps and the steering group is using Skype to hold meetings virtually.
“Although we will need to ask for money to cover the cost of people’s shopping, there will not be any charges beyond the actual costs of groceries. If someone is in need of help but is struggling to access funds, they should still contact us for help and we will signpost to assistance where necessary.”
A steering group of nine residents has been established to co-ordinate the network and includes town councillor Kellie Hinton.
It is also creating a resource bank of useful tools and tips on how to set up successful groups, drawing on the experience of existing groups in Henley and around the UK, to help the co-ordinators and other volunteers.
Anyone who wants to take part, needs help or wants to alert the group to a vulnerable relative living in the town should visit the Facebook page by searching for “Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group” or email
HenleyC19aid@gmail.com to speak to Kate Keaveney, who co-chairs the steering group.
Town councillor Will Hamilton has told residents to message him on Twitter @LeadHenley if they want help shopping and Deputy Mayor David Eggleton says he will deliver soup, long-life milk, sugar, teabags, coffee and toilet rolls to people self-isolating and the elderly. If you need assistance, call him on 07836 202508.
The Henley Literary Festival has established a “buddy” scheme for anyone who needs help and is appealing for volunteers. It will connect them with residents who require support and carry out deliveries of groceries or medication.
To join the scheme, email info@henleyliteraryfestival.
Residents in Shiplake have also come together to help people who cannot go out or want to limit the number of times they leave the house. They will deliver fresh products such as milk, eggs, bread, fruit, vegetables and other items such as newspapers and medicines.
Co-ordinator Carol Harvey, who runs the village corner shop, said: “We now have a list of willing volunteers to help all those who are unable to go out or who wish to limit their outings due to health concerns.”
In Sonning Common, the Fish volunteer centre, a charity which provides transport to people in need, is deploying its 50 drivers to pick up people’s shopping and medicine.
Chairman Richard McQuillan said: “The car drivers will hopefully also be able to take people to any remaining clinics that might be open. We’re offering telephone support as well. We will be offering to phone them twice a week to see if they’re okay.
“Loneliness is going to be a very serious problem. Older people will find it hard not being visited by their children or grandchildren. Someone has said to me ‘I would rather die’ than not being able to see her grandchildren for months. It’s quite serious.”
Call the centre on 0118 972 3986.
Villagers have also established a Facebook group called SoCo Corona Virus Support. Organiser Mathew White, 41, of Orchard Avenue, said 300 people had joined and 38 had provided their details just 48 hours after the page was set up.
The volunteers have offered to collect subscriptions, toiletries and speak to people on the phone.
Mr White said: “It could be something that’s really important if people are going to be isolated for two or three months. Being at home if you’re vulnerable and elderly could lead to its own problems. We have quite a number of elderly residents in the village. The amount of support has been amazing but it would be lovely if it transpired that we weren’t needed at all.”
To get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07468004541.
In Bix and Assendon more than 40 people have offered to take dogs for a walk or shop. Some have also offered to have telephone conversations with people who feel isolated.
In Woodcote residents Rachael Winterbottom and Helena Fahie have established Facebook groups called Combat Corona Volunteers Woodcote and Combat Corona Volunteers. The latter applies to the Goring area.
Ewelme Village Store will stay open but has closed its tea room. It will operate a delivery service for villagers who self-isolate.
Charity Age UK Oxfordshire has also started a new telephone service for the elderly offering advice and a weekly check-up call.
For more information, call 01865 411288..
19 March 2020
POLL: Have your say