This week we’ve been celebrating #VolunteersWeek2020 and saying a special thank you to volunteers who have been supporting their communities through our six virtual Covid-19 support networks across Dudley borough. These incredible volunteers have worked tirelessly to support local vulnerable people, and those self-isolating or shielding, helping with medication collections, essential shopping, or simply befriending to lessen feelings of isolation, loneliness and uncertainty during these difficult times.
We’ve heard so many heart-warming stories of kindness, companionship and newfound friendships. We’ve also heard how volunteers have gone the extra mile to help people to feel a little bit of normality during lockdown, including deliveries of Friday night fish and chips! Volunteers have responded with such positivity and we’ve seen overwhelming acts of kindness.
As Volunteers Week draws to a close, we look back at just a handful of some of the wonderful stories shared by volunteers and our staff. We also want to pass on the many warm messages of thanks that we’ve received on behalf of the people supported. Many have said how incredibly grateful they are to have had the support of volunteers through these uncertain and difficult times.
On Wednesday, Becky, our Small Groups Officer, shared a story about Stourbridge Covid-19 Community Support Group, a brand new mutual aid group that has been working with us since the beginning of lockdown. The group has more than 200 volunteers making shopping trips, collecting medications or offering companionship over the phone. Read the full post here
We’ve shared the stories of volunteer stars, Sheila, Phil, Sam, Sharon, Francesca, Dave, Jayne and Steve, talking about their volunteer experience and how it’s made a difference their lives and the lives of others. Here are some of those stories…
“I was quickly matched up with three people who needed help with their shopping. When I first rang to introduce myself, I was a little nervous but we soon started to get to know each other. We have now got into a lovely little weekly routine starting with a chat for the shopping lists and a chance to find out a little bit more about each other. My Mum is vulnerable and lives in Shrewsbury so when we went into lockdown I knew that my sister would take care of her but I felt a bit useless. So, I started this process to help where I could. What I didn’t expect was to find three different, lovely people who are so grateful of my help but, in turn, have also helped me through these strange and unprecedented times by giving me a sense of purpose.
I feel like we have sailed a path through these stormy waters together and we will keep going until we are able to step out onto a safer shore having battled this storm in the best way we can, with care and kindness for each other. We will never forget one another and I hope one day, when all this is over, we may be able to sit down and have a proper conversation over a nice cup of tea.”
Sheila Jones, volunteer.
Nothing is too much trouble for Phil, and over the last 10 weeks, he has supported a number of people with their weekly shopping trips along with undertaking on average two medicine collection runs per week.
“I have volunteered for Operation Santa with my wife Sarah and when I heard Dudley CVS needed help during this current crisis I offered my help.
I was allocated an area and my role is mainly collecting and delivering prescriptions for vulnerable residents living in my local area. I’ve also been asked to help with some shopping and I shop for one lovely old couple every Thursday Morning.
I have earned the role of ‘go-to source’ for any emergency requests as I am always willing and happy to drop everything and get the job done, and now have the nickname Thunderbird 1!
I have enjoyed meeting people living in my local area and also establishing a good relationship with local pharmacies. To have a sense of purpose during these difficult times has had a very positive effect on me.”
Volunteer, Francesca, said:
“Volunteering has been good for me too. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but it’s been very rewarding.
I’ve met some lovely people that (although our ages may differ) have become good friends. Being forwarded emails of thanks makes me realise how fortunate I am to be able to help others and not be reliant on the kindness of strangers – I try my best for them and it’s good to know they are happy with my efforts. I’ve even enjoyed the shopping experience – it’s been challenging at times, but it’s provided some humorous moments in these strange times.
Equally, the people I’ve delivered to have been so kind and appreciative, it’s put a smile on my face on many days. They may be “stuck” in their houses, but their strength and resilience is inspirational. I hope should they need help once we’re “out” of this pandemic they will know they now have friends in the community who are ready to assist. I believe it’s important we all learn from this experience and gain a sense of community so that we can take some good from it!”
Rose Cook Monk shared her heartwarming story of newfound friendship. An older man she was supporting was rushed to hospital as he had fallen down the stairs of his maisonette. When the nurse asked if there was anyone they could call, Rose was the only person he could think of.
“I ring him to tell him I’m on my way and he puts the money in an envelope – I ask if he’s ok – he always says the same thing “I am now I’ve seen you bless you for looking after me”.
So why after such a short time with such little contact was I his only ‘friend’ – what on earth did this poor Man do before the lockdown? Who helped him? Who did he talk to?
There must be hundreds of people like him out there. Please if you live by an elderly person or even someone living on their own – keep yourself safe – socially distance yourself – but knock on their door – drop a note through their letterbox, check that they are okay. One face, one voice could make all the difference to their day.”
Mother and daughter, Sam and Sharon, shared how they have been connecting with local isolated people.
“We have had a number of local residents in Kingswinford and Amblecote we have been shopping for, collecting prescriptions and offering a friendly chat on the phone when they need it.
We feel we have made a difference by allowing vulnerable people to have a connection to the outside world in this awful time. Without the volunteers, they wouldn’t have access to essentials at this difficult time. It has been a very rewarding experience and it’s brilliant to help the community where possible.”
Dave has predominantly carried out collections of medication from chemists to deliver to vulnerable people.
“One man, in particular, stated that I was the first person he had seen face to face for a week and it was so refreshing for him. We chatted for about 20 minutes (at a safe distance of course).
I gave him my works number and told him that if he wanted a chat at anytime he could call me. He said that he had plenty of telephone calls but it was just nice to actually see someone and have a conversation.
I also support another Coseley resident who has not left his house since March. He is always very grateful for a quick chat when we deliver anything.”
Steve and Jayne have been volunteering with Black Country Foodbank. They pay tribute to those wonderful people who are selflessly keeping the country going during the pandemic often at risk to themselves.
“I’ve kept my head down volunteering in the strange world of the Covid crisis but today need to pay tribute to WONDERFUL PEOPLE who give so much expecting little or nothing in return. My dear Jayne of whom I’m always proud has been volunteering with me since the start of the crisis three days a week at Black Country Foodbank with a brilliant group of like-minded volunteers whose only objective is to help those so much less fortunate. Thank you to all.”
And, here, just one of the messages of thanks that was sent to us from a lady supported with essential shopping:
“I just wanted to thank you for arranging my shopping requirements, which arrived just after 7.00pm tonight. Your volunteer called me from her car after she had left the shopping on my doorstep, so she followed the separation guidance perfectly. The shopping was spot on, in every respect, and even though I did thank her, may I perhaps ask you to pass on my gratitude to her. I am a little embarrassed that I was unable to even offer her a contribution towards her additional fuel costs. Her voluntary actions have allowed me to relax now, and obviously this also wouldn’t have been possible without the actions of Gemma and yourself. The system works well! Thank you. Ironically, until he sadly passed away last July, for many years I was providing the same service to a 97 year old friend, never thinking that I would need similar help less than a year later. It goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner.”
Our Children, Young People and Families team shared stories of many incredible young people who are making a difference by getting involved to help and support others during this pandemic, delivering meals to families, shopping and collecting prescriptions for vulnerable people, baking cakes for key workers and producing information and resources to support other young people.
Tom an electrical engineer and Chloe a nursery assistant have both been furloughed so have plenty of time on their hands and wanted to help. Tom was clear from the start that he was not a ‘shopper’ and this would be his worst nightmare but he was happy to collect and deliver prescriptions which he did most days. They followed all of the social distancing guidelines and used hand sanitiser after each delivery. People were so incredibly grateful for their help, they got lots of smiles and waves which made it all worthwhile.
Katie is a student at Halesowen College and has been volunteering with Dudley CVS and partners including West Midlands Police for the past 5 years. Katie has a huge heart and passion to help others young or old. A quick call to Katie any time of day with a chance to get involved will always result in a big yes, what time and where? Katie arrives every time with a big smile and a huge amount of enthusiasm that is infectious.
During this pandemic volunteers from Black Country Wellbeing Hub, Dudley CVS and DMBC Public Health Colleagues delivered a massive 6000 meals to children across the borough in just 8 days. We calculated that just Katie and driver covered 376 miles and she alone must have jumped out of the car and run up drives to grateful families and smiley children at least 250 times. However this is not the end of Katie’s kindness, she has shopped for a family of 5 who are socially isolating due to their dad being shielded. She was the master of the Tesco scan gun!
Young Health Champion Becky has been busy writing blogs for www.dudleyyhc.wordpress.com. Becky has produced a number of flyers for young people on handwashing, things to do during lockdown and how young people can look after their emotional health.
Another Young Health Champion, Ash, has written a number of blogs providing information on dental hygiene during lockdown and other health-related information. Ash has also been shopping and collecting medication for local residents in Stourbridge.
We just want to finish by saying a heartfelt thank you to all our volunteers who have been supporting their communities through our Covid-19 support networks across Dudley borough. You’re all stars!