The Wokingham Paper

Praise for helpers as Wokingham borough coronavirus community hub winds down after four months of support

Wokingham Community hub
The Wokingham borough community hub, which has shared emergency food parcels with vulnerable residents, is now winding down following easing of lockdown Picture: Stewart Turkington/Wokingham Borough Council

THE HUB which has helped thousands of residents through the pandemic is bringing its services to an end.

The Wokingham Borough Community Response’s food distribution hub has provided essential items to those worst affected by the coronavirus crisis over the past four months.

Set up by First Days charity, and supported by Wokingham Borough Council, the hub has delivered thousands of food parcels to the vulnerable.

But as lockdown lifts and local needs change, Wokingham Borough Council said it is finding new ways to invest in local support — such as giving residents access to supermarket delivery services rather than food parcels.

And this means ending the food donation service.

Responding to the hub’s closure, Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has donated food and other essential items via our libraries these past few months.

“Covid-19 has been, and will continue to be, a huge challenge for us all.

“So many local people have stepped up wanting to play their part in helping others.

“I’m really pleased we were able to offer our libraries as places where people could donate essential items for the most vulnerable in our communities. We’re truly grateful for every single donation.”

Meanwhile, local groups including the Wokingham Foodbank, Woodley Foodbank and Citizens Advice will continue their work as part of the Wokingham Borough Community Response initiative.

Jake Morrison, chief executive of Citizens Advice Wokingham, said: “When the pandemic hit we decided to launch our One Front Door scheme which brought together all local organisations needed to pull our community through this crisis.

“Although some areas of society are returning to normal, we believe our services are still needed and we plan to continue the One Front Door initiative until at least the end of September.

“Unlike the hub, which was needed at a specific time and place during the crisis, we direct residents to a variety of different support services, many of which are still required.

“Meanwhile we are continuing to plan for a second wave, which in the case of a winter crisis, we need to be fully prepared.”

Since Thursday, March 19, Citizens Advice has helped 2,200 people with Covid-19 related issues, and an overall 3,050 residents needing support with issues such as unemployment, benefits and debt.

And the organisation has seen a change in not only the amount of callers, but the profiles of those seeking help.

Mr Morrison said: “There has been a significant rise in those coming to us with financial, mental health and disability-related problems.

“The pandemic has caused a lot of challenges for the borough which we have responded to with the help of Wokingham’s excellent council, groups and charities.

“The resilience and determination shown by these teams has been remarkable and played such an important role in getting our community through this crisis.

“One thing that has really stood out during this period is how strong we are when we work together towards one united aim.”

“This is something I hope will stick with the community for years to come.”

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