The Helping Hand, Grove and Wantage Area facebook group was set up by GEMS Wantage Primary Academy catering manager Katie Hubbard and her husband Chris, an engineer at Harwell, to help their neighbours help each other during coronavirus with shopping, picking up prescriptions, dog walking and trying to keep everyone together.
The group is offering a range of handmade facial coverings, and asking for a £2.50 donation towards the food parcels and other good causes (including £300 for the Royal British Legion and Christmas themed coverings in aid of their Christmas hampers). Collection from Grove.
All coverings are made out of 3 layers of quilting cotton and polycotton. The majority of fabrics have been donated and are repurposed/recycled. They’re all standard size to fit average male/female but larger sizes or smaller can be ordered (not for children aged 2 and younger, due to safety reasons).
They offer fitted coverings now too, made by Sarah Coulson who is generously donating her time, skills and supplies to sew the coverings.
Food Deliveries and Volunteer Support
The original aim was to just cover the streets near where they live but the facebook group has grown to over 1,600 members with a list of over 200 volunteers. The team of coordinators has grown to include (above from left to right): Katie Hubbard, Grove Co-op Manager Amy Bricknell-Routledge, Chris Hubbard, Rachelle Breakspear, Katheryn Houldey and Hailey Burges.
They printed and distributed 5,000 flyers a week before the lockdown (with the help of friends at Abingdon Freemasons and Wantage C of E Primary School) giving the resident of each street the contact number for the volunteer on their street. The sentiment being that if your neighbour pops a leaflet though your door offering help, you’re most likely to know them, which makes it safe. It also makes it safer for volunteers, because they’re near their homes and they can drop off shopping to a neighbour on their way home.
Thanks to Amy Bricknell-Routledge, the Co-Op in Grove was the first one to start offering over-the-phone shopping which means that clients can pay for what they want over the phone so the volunteers just have to deliver the shopping which makes life a lot easier. Amy also helps out by supporting her own neighbours as well as arranging deliveries for the whole group. The group has made over 1,200 deliveries from the Co-op between March and November.
Volunteers also pick up prescriptions and medication from pharmacies and surgers for neighbours and some share a special meal like an Easter roast with their neighbours.
The group has also provided nearly 70 food and grocery parcels thanks to generous donations from anonymous donors, Charlton Ward District Councillor Andy Crawford, Masooms restaurant, Wantage Lions and Oxford Food Bank.
“It became apparent that many people are in a difficult situation financially, due to lack of income, illness or to timing of the lockdown, the increase of food prices, because they can’t get delivery slots for their usual supermarkets (like Asda and Morrisons) and where they can shop the prices are significantly higher,” explains Katie Hubbard.
“But the good news is that some of the families we’ve been helping from week one have now came back to us and said that they have either received Universal Credit or are managing from their own means and they thank us for the help, but won’t be needing again. This means we are able to take others on, hoping in few weeks they’ll be able to say the same. That the little boost they received helped them rebalance and helped them stand on their feet again.”
Group members also share their own surplus food items. If clients can’t cook for themselves they are referred to Ray Collins Trust to receive meals on wheels but the group still does their occasional shopping and prescription collections.
The group receives logistical support from the Oxfordshire All In (the central hub for community response to Covid-19) and the Wantage Independent Advice Centre.
How to Contact A Helping Hand Grove and Wantage
If you need volunteer support on your street, or would like to make a donation or support the group in any way, please join the facebook group or contact the Hubbards on email@example.com or 07789 965287
They can also be found on Oxfordshire All In, wantage.com/coronavirus, covidmutualaid.org and can be contacted via referral from COVID-19 Community Support Programme Team South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils,