When Boris Johnson announced on 23rd March 2020 that we all had to stay at home, we stopped all our usual delivery. And just as one chapter closed so another opened; we are always here to help the community.
Suddenly all the people who used to come to our wellbeing classes were being asked to shield. Neighbours who used to help neighbours needed to stay at home to protect themselves and to protect others. Families were separated and unable to support each other. People were also finding their jobs cut at short notice and incomes slashed. People needed access to food and meals, to have welfare support, phone calls to prevent isolation, prescriptions collected and letters posted.
We stepped in and repurposed all our services. But we couldn’t do this alone – so many people stepped forward to help each other. The statistics are staggering – over 80 adults volunteered 33625 hours over the 18 months.
We advertised on Face book and by word of mouth for help and people gave their time willingly. Volunteers came through Voluntary Action Merthyr Tydfil and through The British Red Cross and from partners like Merthyr Housing Association. And people just turned up and asked if they could help – you were amazing!
From March 2020 we started supplying hot meals daily to vulnerable people across the borough. Starting in Cyfarthfa ward, expanding to Abercanaid and Vaynor we were soon supplying meals to residents across the whole borough, every day. Finding vulnerable people, taking referrals for support, preparing large amounts of quality meals daily from scratch and delivering it to residents’ doors takes some resources! None of this could be achieved without the incredible and selfless help of the amazing volunteers who gave their time day in and day out to help others. In 2020 our kitchen produced and delivered a phenomenal 10,706 meals.
As well as meals we started distributing grocery, toiletry and fruit and vegetable bags weekly to households across the borough. Food was sorted and packaged and delivered to residents’ doors. Three days a week volunteers spend all day organizing and sorting the pantry, making sure that households who are under pressure were able to access nutritious food and quality hygiene items. From March 2020 to September 2021, our amazing staff and volunteers made 8789 doorstep deliveries across the borough. Each delivery was a minimum of 10kg of produce.
51 young people from Gellideg, Twyncarmal and Trefechan also volunteered their time over the pandemic to help others. As well as writing letters to older isolated residents, they made and delivered activity packs to people living on their own and prepared Christmas hampers to bring some cheer. Young artists also painted a fabulous canvas of individual key workers and donated it to Green Hill Manor Care Home to bring some colour to the lives of residents there. The youth team continued delivering throughout the lock downs, on-line sessions, craft packs delivered, wellbeing calls made and a sports lending library created. They even made two films.
Thank you to everyone who helped! We were inundated with letters of gratitude and we want to pass on our huge thanks to all you amazing people who together make Merthyr really special.
Above all, thank you to our amazing staff. We are a small tight team, and this time was exceptional. No one stopped helping and supporting others. We received 37 grants to deliver support around the clock and we were the first port of call when agencies were looking for front line help. Exhausting, exhilarating and essential. It was a tough time, but we played our part.