Volunteers Week – Adapting to help the community

To celebrate Volunteers Week, our Community Hub Manager, Fran Donnelly tell us how she has been helping to support volunteers who’ve stepped up to support those in need during the pandemic.

“My main role at Stratford Town Trust is managing Foundation House, the community hub opened by the Trust to create a ‘home’ for local charities as well as benefit the wider community. Like many others organisations, we took the sad decision to close our doors to the public and all the organisations who use the building when government advice changed regarding Covid-19. At first, I was very much at a loss of what to do – the community hub is a vibrant and often busy place and my role often involves meeting lots of people throughout the day and running around the building checking everyone’s happy- that IT is working, the room is at the right temperature and everyone has a cup of tea in hand! So to be at home suddenly, was strangely quiet.

When my line manager mentioned assisting with a new project ‘Stratford Support’, set up by Stratford Town Trust and Stratford Town Council, I jumped at the opportunity to help. Stratford Support came about to overcome the imminent demand for food shopping, prescription pick-ups and other services which would be needed by those vulnerable people needing to stay indoors.

My role in this quickly evolved into coordinating a team of fantastic volunteer shoppers. It involves setting up and training new volunteers, giving them shopping gift cards so that shops are completely ‘cashless’ and coordinating their shopping time through the week based on availability. I work closely with all the lovely volunteer callers who get shopping lists from the customers across Stratford. Between us we aim to get shopping to the customer as soon as possible after they have made their initial request – it didn’t take long for the team to become a well-oiled machine! My role is also to manage the bulk of the administration behind all the fabulous shopping taking place.

To the date of this blog being posted, over 280 shops have been completed, not including prescription pick-ups or any other services. As you can imagine, I was getting a tad busy with this role as well as ensuring everything was ticking over in my regular job. Fortunately, volunteer shopper Rhiannon became a SUPER volunteer and now coordinates half the volunteers, as well as doing many other jobs. Rhiannon has written her own blog from a volunteer perspective which can be found here.

We have a team of 17 volunteer shoppers between us who are so wonderful, I really must thank them for all their hard work. I know that some of the shopping can be tricky, can you imagine shopping for someone else who may be a complete stranger to you? Getting the right size pie or that correct bottle of dry white wine made from a certain grape in a favoured country of origin…tricky indeed! And that’s before you hit the queues, trolley washing stations, lack of distancing and getting through the tills with shopping for three people…it doesn’t stop there – the volunteers must then find the customers house, get the right shop out the car and delivered safety, all before the butter melts!

So, I would like to thank the volunteers for their time and dedication (and for the lovely chats had on the driveway). You are all superstars! I am very much invested in community and will be taking lots of lessons learnt back to my regular job at Foundation House where I hope we can continue to build a fantastic community hub together.”