Thatcham Volunteer Bureau office reopen an ready to help
THATCHAM Volunteer Bureau is open for business and ready to help people – but it needs them to come forward first.
The bureau reopened its Gilbert Court offices last week for the first time since the first national lockdown last March.
Chairman Dave Whiddett said that although the office had reopened last week, the team had been running a skeleton service throughout the pandemic.
The bureau's volunteer drivers have been taking people to medical appointments, but now it needs help finding drivers and letting people know it is there to help.
Mr Whiddett said that the bureau had lost 12 drivers over the last 18 months either to illness or people moving out of the area.
He said that although the bureau was coping at the moment, there would not be enough drivers if demand increased.
"We would like to replace the dozen drivers that we lost," he said. "When we were running in full we needed all the ones we had."
Mr Whiddett diverted the bureau's calls to his mobile when the office closed but said that calls had dried up in recent months.
He said: "Calls have dropped off considerably. We have got five days booked this August. We have got five people to get to medical appointments.
"Some of our regulars who we have taken all the way through have said it's a nightmare trying to get an appointment at the doctors, so they don't need me.
"We used to take a lot of people to the West Berkshire Therapy Centre. They've been open for a few weeks but the only people going are driving themselves.
"We have told them we are open and will take people who want to come.
"I thought we would be more busy with the jabs.
"The first week we were very busy because they were taking the 80-year-olds, but by the time they got to the 70s they were still driving their own cars.
"The need for us dropped very rapidly. I hadn't planned it that way round. I thought we are going to be run off our feet."
Mr Whiddett said that demand could rise again once flu jabs started to be administered later this year and the bureau wanted enough drivers to cover.
He said that priority was given to medical appointments but drivers would take people where they needed to go.
There is no charge but the bureau asks for a donation.
The Thatcham Volunteer Bureau office is open between 10am and noon, Monday to Friday, and can be contacted on (01635) 862306.