Whilst the UK marks a rather less public Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), thousands of volunteers continue to make a huge impact on the lives of those more vulnerable or needy in our communities up and down the country. The Ross Good Neighbours Scheme is no exception, having now received an incredible 369 offers of support to assist those still being isolated due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
To date, hundreds of members of the community have stepped forward to offer their help in and around Ross-on-Wye – extending to Bridstow, Brampton Abbots, Foy, Upton Bishop, Weston-under-Penyard and Walford. The Ross Good Neighbours scheme was set up prior to the global pandemic at the end of 2019 by previous Ross-on-Wye Mayor, Jane Roberts, who also chairs the Ross Community Development Trust (RCDT). A plea was sent to the community to support those more vulnerable who may be living on the same street, with daily chores such as shopping, filling in forms, dog walking and other tasks that some people may find more challenging than others. The team is now in a position where they have been so overwhelmed by responses from volunteers, that they are sadly unable to utilise the enormous number of offers to help.
Volunteer Team Lead, Paul Cummings, commented: “We wish to thank every one of the 369 individuals that have volunteered to join the Ross Good Neighbours Scheme – the response has been simply staggering and has left us in the embarrassing situation of having more volunteers that we can utilise within the various initiatives that are currently being run. I know that this will be disappointing for many who had hoped to be able to do their bit to help the whole of the community in Ross and many of its surrounding villages. At present we have allocated 160 volunteers with specific tasks, and we have placed 78 volunteers on a Reserve List with a further 130 that have offered to help but have yet to forward the necessary accreditation documentation. We are actively considering how we will need to change our operation once the government provides clear guidance about the future. We know that many of our volunteers will be returning to work and may not be able to provide their current level of commitment or current hours. However, having a significant Volunteer Reserve should enable us to maintain a degree of agility to review processes and the tasking of individuals.”
Looking ahead, Paul notes that Ross Good Neighbours will be aiming to set up a dedicated ‘Neighbourhood Buddies’ scheme which will continue the good work that was the original idea before the pandemic shifted the team’s focus. Post-lockdown, they have identified that around 80 dedicated ‘Buddies’ will be needed in Ross, each responsible for between 60-100 households, all within a few streets of where they live. The buddies will be the face of Ross Good Neighbours locally and will promote the scheme and deal with initial queries from residents. Other responsibilities will include circulating the Ross Good Neighbours newsletter, referring queries and requests for help from neighbours to other voluntary groups, the NHS or social services – and simply being a good neighbour to all those who need support.
All volunteer schemes rely on the invaluable support from local organisations and businesses and Ross Good Neighbours is eternally grateful for the vital support received from many local organisations. The team would like to thank Ross Baptist Church for the use of The Venue where the shopping team runs its operations, Enviroability for the donation of fridges and freezers, and Ross Town Council, who have helped in many ways. Special thanks go to Spar and Morrisons, who supply the team’s groceries, and whose cheerful staff always go the extra mile to help us and our customers. The team also gratefully acknowledges the financial support of many individual donors, as well as grants from Ross Mayor’s Charity Fund; Ross-on-Wye Town Council; Ross-on-Wye Lions Club; The Eveson Charitable Trust; Herefordshire Community Foundation; Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ Charitable Trust.