The volunteers making a difference during the Coronavirus UK lockdown

In a crisis you often find it brings out the best in people.

Nikki at The Zero Shop in Heathfield
Nikki at The Zero Shop in Heathfield

Families rally round, neighbours check on each other and in the case of the current lockdown strangers reach out to help those in need.

Across the county of Sussex a number of different groups have been started on Facebook, for streets, towns and villages offering a helping hand to people who may need someone to talk to or need something picked up from the shop.

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Lin Plant has lived in Cross in Hand for almost 14 years. The former vice chairman of the parish council she says she has always been community minded.

Order ready to go out

She said: “I’m coordinating people in Cross In Hand who can help or need help. I’m vice chairman of Cross In Hand Amenities Society and we’ve already sent out an email and posted on our Facebook page asking for volunteers and info on anyone who needs help. We have people who will collect prescriptions or do some shopping, chat on the phone or by email.

“We can all do our bit, even if we are staying at home.”

The Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester group is linking in with the voluntary and community groups within Arun and Chichester working closely to coordinate the best way forward.

Sharon Westcott, from VAAC, said: “Our job is to give support and advice to the voluntary sector in our local area and to signpost to people who can help.

Volunteer Petra

“I think it is important to support one another to keep people safe and help people who are vulnerable, lonely, self isolating or are key workers.”

A number of businesses have been faced with closure during the UK lockdown but a lot of shops and restaurants have looked at other ways to help the community, be that offering takeaway or delivery services.

Nikki Szabo owns The Zero Shop in Heathfield. She has changed the way the shop works to help people who may be in self isolation or unable to shop.

She said: “These are scary times, we have never been faced with a situation like it before. I think we all need to pull together and help the people in our community who are less fortunate than we are.

“I hate the thought of people being alone and scared and I want them to know that we are here to help them.”

The idea behind the shop when it opened was that it would provide food, cleaning products and toiletries with no packaging in order to help the environment but Nikki has had to reassess this and has changed to packaging goods in paper bags or recycled bottles.

“Rather than coming into the shop, customers can place their order via email, or on the phone and we will pick and pack it for them, we then take payment over the phone and customers can collect it from the door. For any older or vulnerable customers who can’t get to the shop, Liz who has been helping me out, will deliver their order to their door.

“I opened the shop to help the planet, I am absolutely passionate about doing my bit. At the moment, it’s people who need my help and I love being able to look after them.”

She added: “Place their orders using the dedicated phone number (07391 490098) or email address, my mum Glynis is taking the orders and sorting them out for us so that when she sends them to us in the shop they are picked and packed in the order that they were received. I’d love customers to spread the word about the service to older and vulnerable customers so that we can support them at this tricky time.”

Sussex Homeless Support based in Brighton has been delivering food to nearly 100 people a day, those in isolation, the vulnerable and those in hostels. It is looking for volunteer drivers to collect donations and help out in keeping watch through the evenings on its buses.

Jim Dean said: “We take so much strain off of council services, assisting the most vulnerable in our city, we often have referrals from the police also. The mortality rate would be even more shocking than it is if we could not carry on the work we do.

“If people would like to help but are unable to give their time at the street kitchen etc then we ask them to keep in touch via our Facebook page where we will often ask for what we need,they may be able to help in an interactive, proactive way.

"Without volunteers we simply could not do what we do.”

Petra Edwards has joined the Worthing Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support Network group on Facebook and also set up a separate group for the Gaisford Ward where she lives.

She said: “We are trying to keep up the spirit locally and assist people to get through these current difficult times.

“I decided to get involved as I am passionate about my community and wanted to ensure that hard to reach vulernaable people in our community know there is upport out there for them and local residents.”

To reach out to those that may be in need Petra and others from the team put notes with their contact details on through people's doors.

“The response to offers of support in our community shown is gratefulness, appreciation and feeling cared for.

“I feel it is extremely important to volunteer some of my personal time to contribute to keeping the community as a whole safe and support those who are in desperate need for a variety of reasons.

“I would encourage others to do this too.”

Are you or do you know someone volunteering and making a difference to the community? If so get in touch here

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