Village coronavirus support network goes from strength to strength

PUBLISHED: 17:30 10 June 2020

David Andrews and Andy Crabb of Long Ashton Post Office.            Picture: Kate Bolton

David Andrews and Andy Crabb of Long Ashton Post Office. Picture: Kate Bolton

Kate Bolton

The Long Ashton Coronavirus Support Network (LACOVID Network) has made huge progress in supporting villagers during the coronavirus pandemic since its formation almost three months ago.

Founder of Long Ashton Coronavirus Support Network, Kate Bolton.       Picture: Kate BoltonFounder of Long Ashton Coronavirus Support Network, Kate Bolton. Picture: Kate Bolton

The group is in the process of being registered as a community interest company under the Long Ashton Community Network, which has been praised as a ‘model for all communities to follow’ by residents who live in the village.

The LACOVID Network was formed by Long Ashton resident Kate Bolton on March 14 after she posted the idea on social media. She was then ‘overwhelmed by offers of support’.

In the months since the group was formed, it has gained the support and funding of Long Ashton Parish Council.

A number of the parish councillors are also part of the network’s steering group which also includes volunteer members, those of North Somerset Council, local churches and other organisations.

Vice chairman of Long Ashton Parish Council, Phil Jackson, who is part of the support network core team.    Picture: Picture: Kate BoltonVice chairman of Long Ashton Parish Council, Phil Jackson, who is part of the support network core team. Picture: Picture: Kate Bolton

The soon-to-be community interest company has more than 150 ID-checked volunteers with more joining the cause daily.

Kate said: “The support in Long Ashton has been absolutely incredible. So many people have signed up to volunteer and the village community spirit has shined through since this initiative began.

“We want to say a massive thank you to all the volunteers, whether they are fully signed-up with the network or residents supporting their friends, family and neighbours that all are doing a fantastic job and it means so much to the people who they are all helping out in the village.”

Found of the coronavirus support network, Kate Bolton, at Long Ashton Easter Fair in 2019.Picture: Mark AthertonFound of the coronavirus support network, Kate Bolton, at Long Ashton Easter Fair in 2019.Picture: Mark Atherton

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Volunteers of the network are of all ages and backgrounds and are ‘united by a common will to support those in the community’, particularly those who are disadvantaged or self-isolating as a result of the pandemic.

The network has recently established six core areas of support that its community-facing volunteers provide, including picking up people’s groceries and pharmacy prescriptions, walking dogs, posting letters and phoning residents for a chat.

The group also supports young people, children and provides financial impact aid to those who need it.

People who have benefitted from the volunteer service say it is ‘inspiring’, ‘fantastic’ and they ‘couldn’t have asked for a better response’.

Kate helped organise the Long Ashton Community Centre 60th anniversary parade last summer.     Picture: MARK ATHERTONKate helped organise the Long Ashton Community Centre 60th anniversary parade last summer. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Village resident David Murray Milne described Long Ashton as the ‘pot-banging, hand-clapping, die-cast model for all communities to follow’ and that ‘no-one is left alone and no-one is left without’.

Keren Knighton said it is ‘comforting to know that support is there if it is needed’ in the village, as well as seeing an increase in smiles and hello-waves, which has ‘definitely kept Long Ashton life positive’ throughout the crisis.

The coronavirus support network has recently distributed 2,500 booklets about the group to households who may not have access to the internet, and an audio version of information will be made available to those who request it.

Kate added: “The overwhelming response that has already been provided by Long Ashton residents reinforces the view that it is a great place to live and has a fantastic community spirit.

“The network will remain operational for as long as the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the day-to-day lives of village residents and already there are plans in place for the organisation to evolve into a community support network that will hopefully still be going strong long after Covid-19 is a dim and distant memory.”

The group’s Facebook presence keeps residents informed of village events, offers of neighbourly help and services as well as food and produce available from independent businesses including the village shop, which has kept stocked-up on milk, baking essentials, and the option to pay bills at the post office throughout the pandemic while keeping social distancing measures in-place.

Kate says volunteers can often be seen out and about in their high-vis vests and carry letters of authorisation endorsed by Long Ashton Parish Council and the LACOVID Network.

For those who want to get involved, uniform and hand sanitiser has also been dropped to five collection points around the village ready for volunteers to collect before they go out to help people in the community.

For more information about the network, lgo on to www.lacovid.org which also features a volunteers’ hub with information.


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