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Volunteers on the frontline of Covid-19 support in Harrogate have carried out 5,000 tasks to keep the local community safe at home during the pandemic.

Local charity HELP, part of Harrogate and District Community Action (HADCA), has been assisting individuals and families with both practical and emotional support since the Covid-19 crisis began in March last year. This milestone achievement comes at a time when the charity is increasing its support to the local community by providing transport to people who would otherwise struggle to access their Covid-19 vaccination appointment at the Yorkshire Showground.

Frances Elliot, Chief Executive of HADCA, says: “When lockdown began we recruited an army of additional volunteers to help those who were shielding or self-isolating with tasks such as shopping, prescription pick-ups and errand running. We also extended our befriending network to help those who needed to hear a friendly voice at the end of the phone.

“We now have a core of around 200 Here to HELP volunteers in Harrogate and Ripon who continue to support those most in need in the community. We can’t thank our volunteers enough for the enthusiasm and passion they have shown for others and the cheerful way they continue to carry out the tasks. People come to us as a trusted source of support, knowing that our staff and volunteers will go the extra mile to ensure they have everything they need.

“The Here to HELP staff team are also using their wide local knowledge and networks to signpost people to other areas of support and advice where needed. HADCA is at the forefront of information on local voluntary sector provision and have been keeping organisations and individuals up to date with the ever changing landscape of Covid-19 support.”

Nadine Bleasby is one of the Here to HELP volunteers in Harrogate who has been carrying out practical tasks for people since the start of the pandemic. She says: “When lockdown began it felt important to be able to do something, however small, to support my local community. It was the first time I’d done something like this, but I figured I could easily manage a couple of extra supermarket trips a week to help out people currently not able to do so and I think I’ve taken in all of Harrogate’s supermarkets over the last nine months! I’ve met some lovely people, some on an ad-hoc basis, and others I’ve got to know a little better as I’ve shopped more regularly for them. It’s not really about the shopping though, it’s about human contact and taking the time for a conversation and seeing how people are coping. That has been the unexpected but heart-warming element, simply having a chat.”

The charity, which has been helping people to stay safe and well at home for over 20 years, has supported over 1,400 individuals and families across the Harrogate district in the last 18 months. Over 600 new households have requested help since the pandemic began.

Frances concludes: “HELP’s volunteers are also playing their part in the national effort to beat Coronavirus. Our Driving Force volunteers are offering transport to help people get to their Covid-19 vaccination appointments. Due to huge interest in this service, we urgently require more volunteer drivers to join our small team. Applicants would need to be in possession of a DBS check less than two years old.

“All volunteers are being trained in the new Covid guidelines to ensure we can offer a safe and trusted service. This is alongside our Here to HELP volunteers who continue to support the most vulnerable in our community during this latest lockdown.”

To access HELP’s support services, including the Driving Force transport to vaccination appointments please visit www.helpharrogate.org.uk, email help@hadca.org.uk or call 01423 813096. To sign up as a volunteer driver visit https://hadca.org.uk/news/become-here-help-volunteer

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