Twelve months ago, I launched Hungerford’s Self-Isolation Support Network with good intentions to help people forced into isolation over the ensuing weeks. Little did I suspect! When Boris hit the fan on March 23rd, my world descended into total chaos and it was only with the help of eleven dedicated assistants in those embryonic days that the network was able to function to any fruitful degree.
Over 200 ‘clients’ contacted me to say “I need help”, so it was a blessing that over 200 volunteers also contacted me to say “I can help”. OK, I took the calls, but it was my assistants that tied everyone together. It was the volunteers that did all the shopping – and still do. It was the volunteers that collected all the prescriptions – and still do. It was the volunteers who collected the surplus food boxes for the foodbank. It was the volunteers who got patients to and from the surgeries and hospitals for their appointments.
Right now, it is the volunteers (and GWR) who are transporting recipients to the racecourse for their jabs. It’s volunteers who are helping with COVID-testing at John O’Gaunt School so that classrooms are full once again. It’s only when I write all this down that I realise my talent clearly lies in getting other people to do all the work!
Then there’s the money. Over the last 12 months, I’ve never approached anyone for money. Nobody has been charged for the service they’ve received. Nonetheless, I have amassed a substantial pot of cash due entirely to the generosity of dozens of our residents. A £5 thank you for a prescription, here. A £10 thank you for a trip to X-ray, there. A £20 thank you for a lift to the racecourse. Someone gave me a wad of cash after completing a sponsored walk – in their garden. Someone made loads of butterflies on sticks, for sale at Tescos – and donated all the proceeds to me. Someone gave me a 3-figure cheque simply because they could – just to help anyone who couldn’t. Much of it was spent where I felt it was necessary and beneficial, perhaps to put food on someone’s table, heat in their house or petrol in a tank.
Some of that spend was recovered by support grants from local & district councils so there’s still a tidy sum left over. I believe the worst of this crisis is behind us and, as I’m in this delightfully privileged position of being able to spend other people’s money, I thinks the time is right to distribute what’s left.
All the money gifted to me was FROM Hungerford residents FOR Hungerford residents, and it’s with that in mind that I have decided on the following recipients:
- £500 for CHAIN: You don’t appreciate how valuable something is until it’s not there – a wonderful service for the town.
- £500 for HYCC: Hungerford’s Youth & Community Centre – faces a huge challenge as it resumes normal activities.
- £500 for SHOAL: Hungerford Nursery School Centre for Children and Families – no COVID-funding, relies on the support of volunteers.
- £200 for SmartenUpHungerford: The colourful boxes of flowers and plants bring a real warmth to the town – let’s have more.
Most (if not all) of the above have arrangements with The Good Exchange, managed by The Greenham Trust. What this means in practice is that every pound donated to them is matched by another pound from the Trust – it’s a genuine win win.
In summary, then, thank you to my assistants who saved the day, thank you to the volunteers who actually did all the work and thank you for all the donations of cash. Hungerford is a great town with great people and a great spirit – all I did was put that greatness to good use.
Hungerford Self-Isolation Support Network