The Saints Community Project at Brackley Town has a long track record of supporting older and vulnerable people in the community. Pre-pandemic their sessions were attended by 80 people each week.
COVID-19 meant the attendees became isolated in their homes, particularly as many were in the at-risk category and required to shield.
Adjusting to lockdown and COVID had a real impact on both the physical and mental health of their members. In the early days when little was known about the virus were particularly difficult. Volunteers organised outside visits and welfare calls to members throughout lockdowns and the periods of restrictions.
The group partnered with Happy at Home – a group of volunteers who befriend isolated older people – and the South Northants Volunteer Bureau, to help with prescription runs, shopping, and hospital appointments. Food redistributors Fareshare provided fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as jigsaws and a library. These partnerships allowed the group to co-ordinate efforts, provide information to their members and signposting any one in need of additional support.
These weeks had seemed long, scary and uncertain for this group, especially for those that lived alone without family living locally. Eight of the Project’s volunteers came together to plan a virtual tea party on 8 May 2020 to mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. In morning volunteers made and delivered over 100 afternoon tea trays to members. This event lifted everyone’s spirits and gave hope that they would be able to meet again one day. This was the first glimmer of hope for this vulnerable group.
This work developed into the provision of a weekly service of a cooked meal delivered at lunch time to homes once a week for 16 weeks and four further afternoon tea events were delivered. Photos and videos were taken and shared so participants could see that their friends were safe and well.
The group also worked with volunteers at MC Stitched-Up, volunteers producing masks and scrubs for medical and care home staff. They distributed masks via care agencies and shops, as well as delivering them to members.
In August 2020, they helped form a group called The Brackley Elves, to co-ordinate knowledge and resources during the tough winter period. They worked alongside other local groups such as Helping You Live and Brackley Community Radio, supermarkets, and larger local businesses.
Due to the coordination of the Brackley Elves and the generosity of their town and local businesses, each member enjoyed crafts and activities, received Christmas cards and letters from schoolchildren and a bag of gifts over the festive period. On Christmas Day, those that were alone were delivered a full Christmas dinner, party hat and cracker, a gift and a tea party hamper for later. Regular visits continued and with the help of local businesses, a Valentine’s meal and an Easter feast was also provided for members, all delivered to their doorsteps.
One of the members said: “We would like to thank Kim and all of her helpers for all the work they have done over the last few months. It’s so lovely to see them every week, to know we aren’t alone and that they will help with anything. They also keep us well entertained with activities and ideas. All the beautiful well-presented treats we receive really do bring a smile to our faces and help us to cope. Thank you so much to all involved.”