West Devon COVID-19 Heroes – we thank you

WDBC Local Covid Heroes. Okehampton and District Community Transport Drivers. L-r Lindsey Harrison, Brian and Ann Wood, Sue Wonnacott, Graham Harding. Copyright Chris Saville

The Moorlander thanks everyone for their help in making people’s lockdown a little happier and something they can perhaps cope with better. Thank you to all for staying safe and for keeping this horrible disease from getting out of control.

Last year, West Devon residents voted for their local heroes who had selflessly helped others during the pandemic. After considering the nominations, the judging panel at West Devon Borough Council has announced that all the nominees are winners.

Your local COVID-19 heroes are:

Cathy Hipsey – Key Worker

Cathy is the volunteer co-ordinator with Tavistock Area Support Services (TASS) and throughout the pandemic she and her team worked hard to make sure the isolated and vulnerable weren’t left without any support. She worked with commitment and determination beyond the call of duty throughout lockdown
and beyond.

Cathy told The Moorlander: “At TASS my title is really, Outreach Worker. My role is to work with the statutory health services in the Tavistock area and patients and clients within the Tavistock area.

‘I work with individuals and groups of those over 55 or with a disability. Most of my current work is assisting clients with applications for allowances and advising about the support available. I also assist with Befriending Volunteers who continue to keep in contact with their clients, by phone during the restrictions.

‘During the initial lockdown I worked alongside Tavistock Locals Help, supporting those in need in the Tavistock area. This was often a seven-day-a-week task.

‘As Christmas came closer, we also took on the task of supporting the isolated, lonely and in need, over the three days of Christmas. Volunteers delivered presents and a goody bag on Christmas Eve, a hot two course meal on Christmas Day and a Boxing Day treat box on the 26th December.

‘This was all down to donations and support from individuals and local businesses. The TASS Anchorage Centre became the hub to sort store items and send out the items. Without the teamwork of the volunteers, it would not have been possible.”

Chris Proctor – Keeping Spirits Up

Chris organised a weekly virtual quiz on Zoom for residents of Bridestowe: the Bridestowe Lockdown Quiz. By keeping people connected and having fun, he eased the sense of isolation that many people were feeling.

Jackie Butler – Keeping Spirits Up

Jackie organised a weekly bingo night, keeping people in her community connected during lockdown and raising money for local charities who had seen their income drop, including the
local pre-school.

Kirsty Reynolds – Key Worker

As a Key Worker, Kirsty worked her usual day job throughout lockdown, but in her spare time she shopped for elderly and vulnerable people in the community. These people would all have struggled to get supplies without her – many of them offered to pay her for her services but she wouldn’t accept it. She was a real help to so many people in Okehampton.

Okehampton and District Community Transport Group Drivers – Organisation

The volunteer drivers of this already vital service worked throughout the pandemic to make sure that existing and new clients could get to medical appointments safely. The drivers took every precaution with PPE and even supplied it to their clients who couldn’t obtain their own for a wide range of reasons.

The service received many new requests from people who needed a safe way to travel, including many pregnant women needing to get to appointments. Brian Wood, a volunteer driver, said: “It was a privilege to drive the shuttle bus for all those from the war generation to get their inoculations. There was a sense of relief that they were the first
to receive these and their gratitude for the service given to them
by the Transport Group, Medical Centre and the Lions was
warmly felt.

‘I am looking forward to helping the younger generations to do the same as the programme of vaccinations is rolled out. It was a great team effort, and I was pleased to be an integral part of it.”

He also spoke of how it was obvious that many of the clients had not been out much, if at all, during the year and they really enjoyed seeing friends from the community and have a catch up and natter over the welcomed cups of tea provided by the Lions, whilst they waited for the returning bus.

Driver Ann Wood commented: “I really enjoy doing transport runs for ODCTG. All the people I have spoken to are so grateful that the vaccinations have started, and they were having theirs; a light at the end of the tunnel.

‘Hopefully, we can get back to normal was the most common thing said to me; it made getting cold hands and feet all worthwhile!

Some comments from clients of the Okehampton Community and District Transport Group read:

‘Thank you to everyone involved, who took care of our elderly during the whole process. For many of them it was the first time out since March. It was a well-thought out and smoothly run process. My relatives used the shuttle bus on their own from the off-site car park where I met them. So efficient and safe. They felt great as they had some independent social interaction and spotted friends to wave to as well We are lucky to have such a forward-thinking medical practice and community who have come together to get our elderly residents vaccinated so early in the process. Can’t wait for the second jab in January now.’

‘I would like to put on record my appreciation of the service you provide with the hospital car, Ring and Ride and local hospital and Doctor drivers. A lifeline for me.’

‘Thank you to all the volunteers for giving us OAPs a lifeline for all the lovely trips you arrange.’

‘All drivers are friendly. It is a great day out wherever we have chosen to go. So many choices around Devon and Cornwall. Brilliant and thank you all.’

‘Thank you so much for being there for all of us.’

‘Okehampton is so lucky to have you all, you have done a good job of looking after everyone, take care.’

ODCTG are always looking for more volunteer drivers, please contact Sue Wonnacott on 01837 55000 for more details. As a charity they are also grateful to receive donations.

WDBC Local Covid Heroes. Team Horrabridge Covid and Beyond. L-r Sally Northmore, Mairead West, Janet Hearl and Olivia Dunn. Copyright Chris Saville

West Devon Borough Council Waste Collection Crews

The WDBC waste crews received a nomination from a member of the public who wanted to thank them for consistently collecting their waste and maintaining a cheerful attitude throughout the pandemic. The nominator said that the crews would consistently go above and beyond, even in the adverse weather, and made sure that West Devon remained a clean and pleasant environment.

Riverside Stores and Post Office

Colin and Michaela Arthurs both worked extremely hard through the lockdown period to make sure that new and existing customers were able to access food supplies and deliveries. This was hugely important when many of the large chain supermarkets weren’t able to offer deliveries. They made sure that residents were able to order and receive food deliveries including fresh meat and fish from local suppliers.
The Square Shop, Northlew – Organisation

Northlew Parish Council nominated their local shop after they provided provisions, support and a focal point for the village throughout the lockdown period.

The shop is a Community Interest Company that helps provide the village with food and general supplies and also cuts down the necessity to travel to supermarkets and town outlets, particularly during lockdown.

It has recently been taken over by Steve Lockhouse and Shirley Brookman who, with the support of their army of volunteers, have gone above and beyond to keep the store open during the pandemic.

Despite the current climate, it is exceptionally well stocked, mainly because the majority of their produce is sourced locally and without restriction. They have also been creative in setting up a weekly open air market in the Square to allow for social distancing restrictions and have been instrumental in helping set up the village COVID-19 voluntary support group as well as offering a delivery service, including prescriptions, to assist the elderly and residents with impaired mobility. This has proved a lifeline to many parishioners in this small community .

Valerie Langham – Key Worker

Valerie works for West Devon Borough Council and during the pandemic was working to distribute the business rates grants.

A grateful member of the public nominated Val after she supported her through the application process and made sure that the grant was awarded.

This allowed the business owner to continue her business, and provide support to people in Tavistock with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
Linda Freeman – Star Volunteer

Linda was nominated by her daughter Kelly, in recognition of her setting up the Bere Alston COVID group. This group helped people shielding in the Bere Alston area who needed help with shopping, food, prescriptions or just a friendly phone call. Linda’s work made a huge difference to the elderly and vulnerable in her local community.

Olivia Dunn – Community Leadership

Olivia created ‘Team Horrabridge – COVID and beyond’. A group of volunteers that co-ordinated a food bank and prescription deliveries for those in need in the area. She has provided a vital service to so many people in and around Horrabridge.

Olivia said: “I’m really proud of our village for coming together with such infectious community spirit. Our team of selfless volunteers work so hard, always with a smile on their faces. This could never have been achieved alone – it is the result of the collective power of teamwork, kindness and community.”

A message from one of the families Olivia has helped reads: “I’ve been lucky enough to benefit (from Team Horrabridge’s help) and you all made what was a terrible year for me … so much easier, and happier. From me and my family – Thank you xx” – a regular Food Store user.

Winners have now been notified and will be invited to receive their awards at an online meeting later in the year.

As the country now endures a third national lockdown, this vital volunteering in the community continues to provide a lifeline. It is more important than ever to pay tribute to the hundreds of unsung heroes in West Devon villages and towns who are going above and beyond to help others.

Cllr Neil Jory, Leader of West Devon Borough Council said:
“It’s been humbling to hear how each of these local heroes has helped others in our communities. When the judging panel met to discuss who should be crowned winner, it quickly became apparent that it would be impossible to pick out just one or two nominees for this honour.

‘I also know that these heroes are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many other unsung heroes in our midst. I send my thanks to each and every one of you who have done something, no matter how small, to help someone else during this most difficult year and continue to do so during our third national lockdown.”

At the end of the first national lock down, West Devon launched a scheme to say thank you to all those people and organisations who did incredible things to help their communities.

Victoria Bendle, who nominated Cathy Hipsey for an award, added: “Cathy already worked with commitment and determination beyond the call of duty to ensure that isolated people were cared for.

‘Thanks to her support, those isolating and without a support mechanism were kept in touch and cared for by people they trust from within their local community.

Cathy was also at the heart of Tavistock Area Support Services’ support for the community over Christmas. She helped to co-ordinate volunteers to ensure that families and the isolated all received a gift on Christmas Eve, a hot Christmas meal on Christmas Day and additional cold buffet food on Boxing Day. Over 100 people were supported by this work!”

If you would like to help out in your community during the current restrictions, or you think you have skills that would be useful, there are lots of ways you can get involved.

To find a local group or organisation to get in touch with, visit: https://westdevon.gov.uk/6715

Author: Laura White

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