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Coronavirus: Thatcham volunteers praised as scheme is wound down

Residents and staff praised for their efforts in lockdown

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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Coronavirus: Thatcham volunteers praised as scheme is wound down

THATCHAM’S coronavirus volunteers and staff have been praised for their efforts in going from “a standing start to full throttle” to help their town.

More than 300 people stepped forward to help those in need in the community, delivering 300 prescriptions, 70 food parcels and 30 emergency shopping trips a week at the peak of the crisis. 

But with lockdown and Government food parcels ending, the town council’s volunteer scheme is being wound down.

Speaking in a meeting last week, town mayor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “This has been an amazing success, really down to the volunteers who have come forward.

“To them, we are all eternally grateful.”

Mr Cole said the town council had been on the front foot during the pandemic, with its emergency committee putting out a call for volunteers before the West Berkshire Community Support Hub was established. 

“I believe our volunteers have assisted 2,000 people over the last three months,” he said.

“It’s been a phenomenal success and I can’t praise or thank too highly the volunteers who have come forward.”

Town council staff had been co-ordinating the volunteers throughout the three months of lockdown, as well as taking calls from the community hub at the start of the crisis.

The Burdwood Community Centre has been used to store and distribute the Government’s emergency food parcels, co-ordinated by town council staff and charity Spotlight UK. 

Jeremy Cottam (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) thanked council staff for their “fantastic effort from a standing stand to full throttle, they have coped with this tremendously well”.

He said: “Managing 300 volunteers and all incoming food parcels and putting out leaflets, I’m just so full of admiration for them.”

Suggesting a thank you card to all volunteers signed by the mayor, Ellen Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said: “We can’t invite them to a tea party, but at least the people will realise we have thought of them.” 

Mr Cole said there had been a “substantially reduced demand” for volunteer services following lockdown restrictions being eased, combined with people on furlough returning to work.

He said that the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire was winding down its operations and with the Government stopping its emergency food parcels, the town council would be winding down its volunteer services in the same timescale. 

“The question is what next,” he said. 

“The community hub, which has proved after a bit of teething problems between them and us, the relationship we have had has been extremely effective and they are continuing, so they will be the primary source of support for people.” 

But Richard Foster (Lib Dem, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said that people needing the food parcels should not be forgotten.

He said: “In this town we have 100 families, about 230 people, who need the foodbank and that will carry on even after lockdown.

“We need to remind ourselves from time-to-time that this is happening in this town.” 

Agreeing with his Lib Dem colleague, Mr Cole said the economy was “starting to see the fallout in terms of redundancies and our foodbanks are providing exceptional resources to families”.

Spotlight will be leaving Burdwood next week.

The town council has offered the charity the use of the Moors Pavilion if it cannot find another base. 

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Article comments

  • CommonHungerforder

    11/08/2020 - 15:44

    Why hasn't Mike Cole/Town Council told me I am no longer required? MORE TO THE POINT, the people who I've been assisting DO NOT KNOW! I am meeting somebody in Thatcham tomorrow for a cup of tea having spent many hours on the phone. Should I cancel? Mike (ALWAYS SMILE IF A CAMERA IS POINTING AT YOU) Cole - [he told me he did that over a decade ago], has wound both volunteers and those that needed support down to nothing without informing? Well done, say CHEESE.

    Reply

  • newburywolf

    08/08/2020 - 13:17

    I sent them an email offering to help, and 4 months later received a 'deleted without being read' reply.

    Reply