Praise for Wakefield's 'magnificent' volunteers as first anniversary of lockdown approaches
Hundreds of Wakefield's volunteers, charity staff and workers have been praised for their “magnificent” work in supporting others through the pandemic.
This week marks a year since the first restrictions were introduced in the UK, a year which has brought lockdown, loss and unimaginable personal struggles for so many people.
But it has also been a year of breathtaking resilience.
In March and April, families across Wakefield took to their doorsteps as part of the national Clap for Carers campaign, which saw thousands of people applaud and cheer in support of NHS staff.
That same week, hundreds of people began to offer their support to those in need in any way they could.
Simon Topham, from Citizen’s Advice Wakefield, said the wave of support offered by volunteers had proved essential in the district’s battle against coronavirus.
He said: “Volunteers really did spring into action this year. “They were and still are magnificent.
“It’s proven the value of a good voluntary sector; it acts as an essential part of supporting the country, which perhaps wasn’t as appreciated as much before.”
Simon said that, in some cases, volunteering has kept people busy while furloughed, or helped them develop new skills to search for jobs.
But in all cases, the work of volunteers has been essential.
Simon said: “Volunteers really did step up. People realised it was a crisis and so many have volunteered to help in so many ways.
“They’re delivering food, they’re visiting people, doing shopping and providing advice.
“In every realm of life, the whole act of volunteering is now seen to be so essential.
“In good times people forget how vulnerable we are. But in hard times all these groups are so essential.
“We need community and we need neighbours, we need local resources.”
Among those who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic and lockdowns are staff and volunteers at St Catherine’s Church Centre in Agbrigg.
As well as offering traditional church services, the centre runs a food bank, meal delivery service and elderly day care service for local residents.
Though their work has been disrupted by the pandemic, community development worker Catherine Portman says there has been a steady demand for help from local residents.
She said: “We used to have a cafe here, but at the moment our chef has done a meal delivery service, where you get a wholesome, nourishing warm meal for £5.
“It’s going from strength to strength, we’re getting some repeat customers and had to get a dedicated nourishment phone line.
“For a lot of people it’s just nice to see a friendly face delivering the food. People want to have somebody to talk to.”
Staff at St Catherine’s have also continued their food banks service through lockdown, with home deliveries to those in need.
And they hope to reopen their elderly day care service, which provides “fun and friendship” to people who may otherwise face isolation and loneliness, in the coming weeks.
Catherine said: “We’ve got to work in bubbles and in a specific, safe way. It’s taken a lot of planning and training for staff.
“But for some people who used to come they’ve been completely isolated.
“A lot of elderly people use our day care, and certainly people really want to get a change of scenery and do something different.”
Community heroes and volunteers all do their bit
Despite the uncertainty of the last 12 months, there has been no end of inspiring stories and incredible people.
In the first weeks of lockdown, the Express was inundated with requests to help thank those who were bringing a smile to others, from singer Callum Whelan, who entertained the neighbours with weekly driveway singalongs, to the staff at the Butchers Arms pub, who, when forced to close for lockdown, donated their full stock of food and bottled drinks to NHS staff and patients.
Ossett grandmother Karen Curry, 60, was widely applauded when she made the decision to step out of retirement and return to work as a nurse during the pandemic.
And Walton postman Jonathan Barratt made it his mission to make people smile, wearing a series of fancy dress outfits on his daily delivery walk.
The following week, maternity nurse Isobelle Ellen said she had been left “hysterical” after a kindhearted stranger gifted her £50 towards her food shop.
Teacher Andy McVeigh, better known as the Burley Banksy, paid his own tribute to NHS staff, with artwork outside Pinderfields Hospital.
And NHS Volunteer Responder Martin Dearnley has been praised after revealing that he has clocked up more than 5,200 hours on duty helping other during the pancemic.