The Wokingham Borough Community Response group has been adapting its processes to support the community as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and lockdown is relaxed.
Over the weekend, it moved into its new home at Cantley Park and is accepting donations.
Charities and organisations working together to form the group include Wokingham Borough Council, First Days Children’s Charity, Citizens Advice Wokingham, Link Visiting Scheme, Wokingham Foodbank, the Wokingham Volunteer Centre and Involve Community Services.
Over the last 13 weeks, Citizens Advice have handled over 12,000 calls and helped more than 2109 households through One Front Door. Of those households, 628 are classed as extremely vulnerable.
The organisation offers guidance on a range of issues from benefit and employment enquiries to food and prescription requests.
Mark Stevenson, a Crowthorne resident, recently contacted Citizens Advice with a work related problem and says he’d recommend the service to anyone in a similar situation:
“I had some trouble with my work, I’d worked there for 12 years, I was furloughed then they terminated my contract, not realising I’d been there for 12 years,” he said.
“I wanted all the information of what I was entitled to.”
Mr Stevenson first spoke to Citizens Advice in early June, and has since been in regular contact with Ann Dally, a volunteer for the service.
Mr Stevenson and his partner Aman said: “Ann was so patient, very good in understanding the situation.
“She gave us advice on how to communicate with Mark’s work, how to write emails and where to get advice online.
“She would get advice from other members of the team and research things then send us follow up emails and call to ask how we’re doing, she was so efficient.
“They were really helpful, really amazing. We just appreciate the help greatly, we’d recommend Citizens Advice.”
Anyone who needs support should contact Citizens Advice on 0300 330 1189 (entering 0118 978 7258 if prompted) Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm.
Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk/coronavirus/ and complete the online form.
Wokingham Volunteer Centre
The Wokingham Volunteer Centre has been delivering prescriptions, tackling unruly gardens and from early July will be helping those who cannot drive themselves.
With approximately 10 active volunteers across the borough collecting medication, staff report the centre has seen a reduction in prescription requests to only two a day as more people are turning to their local Covid-19 groups for help.
The service has delivered more than 835 prescriptions since they started.
Three weeks ago, its gardening service, Green and Tidy, started back up again and volunteers have worked on approximately five-six gardens a day.
The centre’s Transport Scheme will be back up and running from Monday, July 6.
Helena Badger, volunteer development coordinator at The Wokingham Volunteer Centre, said: “We’ve had clearance to start up our transport scheme again, this will be for our existing clients. We’re following all the guidelines and drivers will be in PPE.”
The organisation is encouraging anyone who can to volunteer for a local charity and continue to support local charities to recruit volunteers.
For updates on roles available, visit: wokinghamvolunteercentre.org.uk.
The Link Visiting Scheme
The charity is currently running a telephone buddy system offering social support and friendship over the phone. The organisation has 1,500 people on their records for a fortnightly welfare call and 350 on their telephone buddy system for calls two to three times a week.
Volunteers have said how worthwhile it is making fortnightly welfare check calls. One volunteer said: “People are so appreciative of being contacted. It’s so rewarding to know that doing a small gesture can mean so much to others.”
To refer someone for support or to apply to be a Link volunteer visit www.linkvisiting.org or call 0118 979 8019 on weekdays from 9am until 5pm.
The Wokingham Community Response’s distribution hub, which is run by First Days Children’s Charity, relocated to Cantley Park last weekend, after three months based at St Crispin’s Leisure Centre.
The hub has fed more than 2,300 people, making over 4,550 deliveries to 892 households over the last 13 weeks.
Donations can be left outside the Ashridge Room, Monday to Friday 10am-2pm.
As well as many households unable to afford food, the hub has helped more than 700 households across Wokingham Borough who are able to afford food but are shielding, to access their own food shopping. This was made possible through local COVID-19 support groups, a DEFRA scheme for priority online shopping slots and a number of supermarkets and shops taking telephone orders and making deliveries.
To contribute financially to the response visit the Justgiving page: www.justgiving.com/campaign/WokinghamBoroughCV19
All money raised will go to fund food parcels and any funds left over once the food hub has closed will be distributed to the voluntary sector organisations involved in this combined response.
For more updates visit: www.facebook.com/wokinghamcommunityhub
The Wokingham Foodbank has distributed an average of one ton of food per week over the last 13 weeks, feeding 2096 people, 940 of which were children.
Food parcels are available to households in emergency situations, those who cannot afford to purchase food and other household essentials such as toiletries and cleaning products.
Annette Medhurst, manager of Wokingham Foodbank said:
“I started working at the Foodbank in late February and I have been incredibly impressed by the dedication of the team who work here.
“The Foodbank is run entirely by volunteers who work tirelessly to help those less fortunate in our community.”
The Foodbank is currently offering a delivery service but has recently started inviting clients back into the Foodbank to collect their food.
Mrs Medhurst said: “We fully understand the need for some to still have access to a home delivery at the moment we are now asking clients to collect where possible.
“This allows us to make sure we are fully supporting people by providing all the essentials that a household needs.”
The Foodbank is open for food donations on Monday and Friday 10am-noon and for collection of food parcels (for those who have received a referral) Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 2pm-4pm.
Donations can also be left in the collection bins located at the following supermarkets: Sainsburys (Winnersh), Tesco (Wokingham), Morrisons (Woosehill), Waitrose (Wokingham) and Sainsburys (Ashridge Road).
The Foodbank is currently in need of soap, deodorant, tinned potatoes/instant mash, hotdogs, sponge puddings, rice pudding and custard.
It reports an abundance of long life milk, baked beans, pasta, tea bags, soup and tinned fish.
Many local organisations, schools and charities are able to refer people to the Foodbank.
Contact Citizens Advice on 0300 330 1189 to discuss being referred.
For more details, log on to: wokingham.foodbank.org.uk or facebook.com/WokinghamFoodbank