Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, an incredible volunteer effort has lifted and carried communities across the county to ensure no-one slips through the cracks.

From community support organisations co-ordinating volunteer efforts to friends checking on friends and neighbours on neighbours, the caring nature of North Yorkshire as a county has been present throughout.

With a second wave of Covid-19 infections now affecting communities across the county, organisations like Husthwaite Village Hall Committee, which sprang into action at the start of the pandemic to ensure help on the ground for those in need, are stepping up their operations once again.  They are being assisted by an additional allocation of funding from North Yorkshire County Council.

Thanks to a Defra grant, the County Council has been able to allocate funding to many vital organisations like the Husthwaite Village Hall Commitee so they can continue to help the most vulnerable in the community.

The funding comes after the Government - Defra’s Local Authorities Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies- made a provision of £63 million to be distributed to local authorities across the country to help those who are struggling to afford food and essentials following the Covid-19 crisis.

Twenty six organisations across North Yorkshire have been granted up to £10,000 to enable them to keep supplying food to people in their locality.

This includes food banks and community kitchens and fridges – with many of the organisations helping to combat food waste along with providing hot meals and store cupboard staples.

Gary Fielding, Corporate Director for Strategic Resources, said: “It’s wonderful that organisations within the community can utilise the Defra grants to continue to help those most in need across North Yorkshire.

“The army of volunteers and members of the public there and willing to support is incredible, as always, and it’s just another measure to ensure that no-one in the county slips through the cracks.”

Help is still there in every community where it’s needed. People who need support with shopping, prescriptions and other essentials but don’t have anyone to call on, or anyone concerned about the welfare of someone else, can contact North Yorkshire County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780. The centre is open seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm.

People can also find details of local voluntary and community groups offering support at www.northyorkshireconnect.org.uk

For more information go to www.northyorks.gov.uk/help-you-during-coronavirus-covid-19

We spoke to the community organisations below on how the grant has helped them.

Husthwaite Village Hall Committee

Husthwaite Parish Council and Village Hall Committee tailored their efforts during lockdown and beyond to ensure everyone was cared for and no-one fell through the cracks.

From delivering 200 cakes across the village to simply being around for a chat, volunteers pulled together to continue that community spirit even when everyone was apart and truly looked out for one another during times of adversity.

Volunteers from across the village came together when the pandemic began and were co-ordinated by the Village Hall Committee and the Parish Council to give a cohesive response.

The Defra funding will enable volunteers to continue helping those who need it.

Lynn Colton, the Co-chair of Husthwaite Village Hall Committee said: “We do have an ageing population here and those people in the past are the ones that were the most active and would have been helping.

“We have an Orchard Village club, a two course meal once per month where elderly people can get together and catch up. We do Prime Time, which was originally organised through North Yorkshire County Council. It’s games and activity based and anyone who fancies it can go along.

“We also did the Apple Tree café once per month where again, anyone can go along and catch up.”

Lynn added that when the pandemic started, the Parish Council began compiling lists of people who may need extra help, aided by the village hall and church.

Fliers with useful numbers on for anyone who might need them were also printed and distributed.

She said: “It might just have been seeing them out and about walking and checking they were okay and had support, but we also arrange a food delivery service where one of us would go and pick up shopping.

“We did the same for prescriptions too, which helped the doctor’s surgeries in the area as it meant not as many people going through.

“We continued the Orchard Village club with a two course meal delivered once a month, and a soup run once a week, delivering soup to 25 people in the village.

“It’s not just about getting a hot meal, but we would stay and speak to whoever we were delivering to (in a socially distanced and safe way) for as long as they needed us to, to make sure they were getting to see a friendly face too.

“As lockdown lifted and things started to get back to normal, we found that a lot of the residents we were supporting began to get nervous.

“It might be getting back to normal for us, but it wasn’t for them and a lot of the volunteer support we had needed to get back to work etc.

“For example, to do the soup and deliver it can take up to three hours.

“The Defra funding has ensured we can commit to having these measures in place until at least next March, so people don’t have to worry about it and we can reassure them.”

Age UK North Craven

Age UK North Craven is one of the 23 CSOs across North Yorkshire, helping to co-ordinate all the voluntary efforts in the area to ensure people were properly signposted to the support they needed.

As the crisis lessens, Age UK North Craven has begun to pick back up some of the voluntary work within the community as other volunteers begin to wind down their efforts.

Manager Jonathan Kerr said: “Our focus in all of this is predominantly older people.

“We are a local independent charity, Age UK North Craven, which has links but is separate to Age UK.”

Jonathan added when the Covid-19 crisis took hold, many voluntary groups in the area appeared.

As a CSO, they took the role of supporting these groups to apply for funding but also signposted people who needed support to them.

The support  offered included advice, support with managing volunteers, sourcing and supplying  PPE, sourcing donations, record keeping, paying volunteers expenses, updating them with rule changes and helping them with access to grants and other support.

Jonathan added: “As lockdown went on, our support changed to looking at how to support people’s mental health within the community.

“We distributed craft and hobby packs to keep people’s minds active as boredom took hold.

“Then, as lockdown ended we had to adapt our support again.

“Many older people were reticent about going back out in the community, so we provided supported walks to the shops to make them feel more confident being out and about.

“A lot of our services went from being face to face to online and over the phone at the start and that have continued.”

Jonathan said in the last month, many of the smaller voluntary groups have started to reduce or stop their services as demand slowly goes down.

He said: “We’ve started picking up a lot of the core functions again like food delivery and prescription delivery services.

“We don’t want people to have relied on this support and then suddenly be without it.

“We want to wean people off gradually, so we have introduced measures like our services needing to be booked and doing deliveries two days per week rather than every day – the idea is that our elderly community members remain resilient.

“We are slowly starting face-to-face activities back up, like exercise classes specifically for people at risk of falling.

“A lot of people during lockdown have been sedentary so we need to build them back up.

“Everything is done in a safe way.”

Jonathan added that Covid has identified many hidden needs in the community surrounding food poverty.

He said: “We have a really successful food bank which has identified a lot of hidden need and people who flew under the radar slightly.

“There are particular villages who needed food banks and two more have been set up to meet this demand.”