So many Neighbourhood Watch supporters everywhere are coordinating a local volunteer response to the current situation, however the response of Shaun Blagdon and his neighbours in Ella Street, the surrounding streets and now the Avenues Ward in Hull, is a story to celebrate. Shaun Blagdon explains...

'It began with a post on March 11th from a resident on our local street Facebook page expressing concern about elderly relatives in need of support.

After some discussion on the page and establishing that neither the city council nor any other organisation we could find had anything in place to deal with this yet, we setup a volunteer team to satisfy this need. The premise was to run the team on a “hyper local” basis and to keep the team dedicated supporting Ella Street initially. The advantage of this is that it enables “trust” when dealing with cash for shopping, people are more likely to trust a neighbour, it saves volunteers traversing the city to provide help and in the medium / long term will help community cohesion.

We posted a 'google sheets' document on the Facebook page which almost immediately had 15 people sign up with their details. At the same time, John Robinson of the Avenues heard of our plan and requested our help in rolling out the same model across the Avenue Ward. With his assistance, we printed enough leaflets to cover the entire Avenue Ward the following day. The whole of Ella Street was leafleted the same day with the wider Avenue Ward leafleted over the following week or so. Within 1 day, we had 30 volunteers, within 3 days we had 70 volunteers . It was then that Sarita Robinson provided her invaluable help with the administration of the scheme.

As the leaflets where distributed around the rest of the Avenue Ward, this figure exploded and we now have over 350 volunteers. In order to keep with the “hyper-local” model, we have assigned 12 coordinators who cover their own street or local area. In turn, these coordinators are assigned the volunteers within their street or local area. When we get new jobs in, we assign it to the coordinators closest to that customer, they in turn find the volunteer with the best fit for the job.

We also have an Admin Volunteer, a Telephone Support Volunteer (to help keep in contact with lonely isolators) and an Appeals Volunteer (who coordinates the various charity collection appeal ideas we come up with and want to support). 

To date, we have helped over 70 people. The majority of the jobs are shopping and picking up prescriptions. Volunteers report quite humbling stories with some customers bursting into tears, some rewarding the volunteers with their fathers “secret recipe” for Christmas cake and reports of a sing-song whilst helping a lady walk to the post office to collect her pension.

It’s quite heart warming that many of our volunteers have “adopted” people in need and handed over their personal details, so that the person can contact them directly and arrange things such as weekly shops. This bodes well for future community cohesion in that a few new friendships are being made.

The team has a Whatsapp and Facebook group for informal chat and idea generation. These groups have generated ideas for various appeals, most notably one for the ICU wards at Hull Royal, whereby we heard they where running out of toiletries and hand gel. Within three days we had collected hundreds of pounds worth of items, three car boots loads and a back seat. We collected so many items that ICU ran out of space for them and distributed the rest to other COVID-19 wards and to Castle Hill.'

Now we are becoming established, we are helping the council with some of the jobs generated via their helpline. Although the council now have their own dedicated number, people are still welcome to register with us.

We aim to satisfy all requests for need within a day, weekends included and so far, have achieved that aim. Our biggest problem is that with so many eager volunteers, we do not get enough requests to keep everyone busy, so more requests are welcome.