People living in Henley and the surrounding areas are pulling together in response to the Covid-19 outbreak to ensure no resident is left without help or support during isolation.
The group, called Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group, was set up on Facebook on Sunday (15 March) and by Tuesday had over 1,200 members, all keen to do their bit to help the community.
A steering group of nine town residents was swiftly set up to create and coordinate a network of volunteers covering the whole of Henley.
The group plans to divide the town into areas covering around 80 households each. Each of those areas would have an Area Coordinator responsible for coordinating a team consisting of Street Reps, a Finance Rep and individual volunteers.
The idea is to ensure that any and all vulnerable people or people in need of assistance can be helped quickly by volunteers from the local community, in most cases from the same street.
Emma Taylor, who is helping with communications for the group, said: “We want to make sure that everyone who needs help will get it, whether they need food delivered, a prescription picking up, or their dog taking for a walk. We are also looking at offering phone chats to help those who live alone avoid loneliness.
“We have already been contacted by people living outside Henley who have elderly relatives in the town, and want to ensure they are looked after, as well as many people who want to offer to help.”
Ms Taylor, of Western Avenue, added: “It’s fantastic to see the town pulling together like this in a positive way in a difficult time. We are aware that some areas already have fantastic support groups and we are working with them and learning from them rather than reinvent the wheel.”
She explained: “Care is being taken to prevent spreading the virus – volunteers will not have personal contact with anyone, and will keep 2m away or leave deliveries on doorsteps, and the steering group is using Skype to hold meetings virtually.
“Although we will need to ask for money to cover the cost of people’s shopping, there will not be any charges beyond the actual costs of groceries. If someone is in need of help but is struggling to access funds, they should still contact us for help and we will signpost to assistance where necessary.”
The steering group includes Councillor Kellie Hinton among other community-minded residents. It is also creating a resource bank of useful tools and tips on how to set up successful groups, drawing on the experience of existing groups in Henley and around the UK, to help the coordinators and other volunteers.
Anyone who wants to volunteer to help, who needs help, or who wants to alert the group to a vulnerable relative living in the town should visit the Facebook page by searching for Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group or email Kate Keaveney, co-chair of the steering group, on HenleyC19aid@gmail.com