Publish Date: 2 June 2020
SOME of the many volunteer groups that have been supporting Wealden households were existing community groups that adapted to the new circumstances. Others were born out of a shared concern for their neighbours.
Supporting Crowborough is one such group that came from nowhere and has been providing groceries, medicine and other support to hundreds of households in and around Crowborough in the past weeks.
It started out from a post on social media by Spencer Miller, who works at the Jarvis Brook, ticket office and soon became a Facebook group, Supporting Crowborough. Using social media, it has enabled people self-isolating to request help, and others – who now had time on their hands because they could no longer work – to volunteer to help.
Volunteer administrators and coordinators, including many local councillors, have helped with the running of group. The town is divided into 22 different areas, each consisting of a number of roads. Each area has a coordinator and a number of volunteers, enabling them to develop an effective support network. Over a 100 people have volunteered to help provide groceries, deliver medicines, post letters or simply have a chat.
Further deliveries of medicine have been provided by the Friends of Crowborough Hospital. They had a driver and passenger assistant who normally brought people to the hospital’s day centre. Now they are helping deliver prescriptions.
Kirsty Harman, who was an event co-ordinator at a local hotel, has played an important role, co-ordinating the response to email requests and now chairs the group. Other requests come by telephone, word of mouth, Crowborough Town Council or Wealden’s Community Hub.
“We have had very few issues,” explained one local organisers, District Councillor Gareth Owen Williams. “We have been able to maintain social distancing and keep transactions contactless. Most people were happy to transfer the money to volunteers online for the completed shopping.
“Many of the households we have been helping have been self-isolating because they are over 70, so we will be helping them for a number of weeks to come. It becomes a regular visit and many are enjoying the new friendships which are being created. It underlines what a terrific sense of community there is in the town.”
Going forward, Supporting Crowborough is talking to other agencies about offering a befriending service for local people.
“As people start to go back to work, we may lose the help of some volunteers, but we have had plenty of other people offering to get involved.”
Photo shows Pat Bennett : one of Supporting Crowborough’s regular volunteers