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‘Small cogs in a huge community effort’ - Coronavirus aid group grows to help vulnerable

PUBLISHED: 11:29 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:54 16 April 2020

Group of volunteers offering support to people in need in Downham Market and the surrounding area. Picture: Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group For Downham Market and Surrounding Villages

Group of volunteers offering support to people in need in Downham Market and the surrounding area. Picture: Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group For Downham Market and Surrounding Villages

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A community-spirited volunteer group offering support to those affected by the coronavirus pandemic is said to be growing by the day.

Group of volunteers offering support to people in need in Downham Market and the surrounding area. Picture: Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group For Downham Market and Surrounding VillagesGroup of volunteers offering support to people in need in Downham Market and the surrounding area. Picture: Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group For Downham Market and Surrounding Villages

Coordinators of the Covid-19 mutual aid group for Downham Market and the surrounding villages have said support for its service has grown in recent weeks.

The initiative, which was set up as a Facebook page by Alex Coates, has grown into a team of 215 volunteers helping people with requests such as shopping and prescription pick-ups.

The group has received around 200 tasks from service users in the local area since it started, which has included dog walking, letter posting, newspaper collecting and fixing a broken washing machine.

Lauren Seamons, one of the group’s admins, said: “The majority have been shopping trips but our system is to put volunteers in touch with requests and then ask them to continue supporting that person directly if possible.”

Alex Coates - centre manager at Eternity Church in Downham Market, set up the Covid-19 mutual aid group for Downham Market and the surrounding villages. Picture: Alex CoatesAlex Coates - centre manager at Eternity Church in Downham Market, set up the Covid-19 mutual aid group for Downham Market and the surrounding villages. Picture: Alex Coates

The deputy chief officer of the Norfolk Local Pharmaceutical committee said she wanted to help her community while at home on maternity leave.

MORE: Councillor makes masks for key workers and community members

Mrs Seamons said: “We are all small cogs in a huge community effort to help our more vulnerable friends, family and neighbours.

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“My pharmacy colleagues are on the front line making sure patients get their vital medicines. They have to go into work every day, face to face with the public and continue to give help and advice for all illnesses, not just Covid-19.

“I feel extremely privileged to be at home with my family during such a busy time for them so wanted to help in whatever way I could.”

She said staff at Arbuckles have been instrumental in providing support by donating and covering phone calls and arranging prescription collections.

A GoFundMe page was set up last month to fund the costs of running the service and reimburse volunteers for any incurred costs.

Mrs Seamons said: “Our GoFundMe page has reached over £1,300 including a large donation from a local councillor, Josie Ratcliffe, who gave her £400 councillor allowance for March as a donation.

“I thank each and every donor.”

If you live in the Downham Market area and need help or want to volunteer - contact the group on 07943 682216 or on their Facebook page.

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