Portishead pulls together amid the Covid-19 pandemic

More than 150 people signed up to volunteer in Portishead

More than 150 people signed up to volunteer in Portishead - Credit: Archant

Community spirit is strong in Portishead and the town continues to pull together to weather the Covid-19 pandemic.

From socially distant smiles, to rainbows in windows and chalked on pavements, glimmers of hope and solidarity, all are visible across Portishead.

By the end of March more than 150 residents had signed up to volunteer and support the community through the Portishead Coronavirus Support Network. This volunteer troop linked with other organisations including church groups, Portishead Youth Centre and the foodbank and worked alongside the town council, which provided staff and infrastructure support, to help those who are self-isolating or shielding. The team also linked up with other towns and villages under the North Somerset Together initiative.

Portishead resident, Sammy Howe, said: “I live alone and it was quite a shock to discover I was someone who needed to shield. The volunteers who have helped me have been so kind and caring. I cannot thank them enough, not only for the practical help but the sense of community and the reassurance no one is on their own.”

The volunteers, many of whom are balancing family life and their own experiences with volunteering, have been working tirelessly to help those who cannot leave their homes. From April to mid-May, they covered around 300 prescription collections and more than 250 shopping calls, alongside collections of medical samples, post office visits and support for banking activities. Five Portishead care and retirement homes have been supported with weekly shopping and pharmacy visits and direct support has been given to those living in sheltered and supported housing.

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Community volunteer, Gaye Holman, talked about the benefits of the work on both sides. She said: “Helping members of the community during the crisis has given me purpose. It’s helped me mentally because I’ve been able to get out and I know that I may have brightened someone’s day.” Steve Bolger, another volunteer, said: “Portishead has always had community spirit, but this has taken it to the next level. I’m glad I’m part of it and feel like I’m part of something much bigger.”

Help has gone beyond shopping and prescriptions. In early May, the Portishead Community Hub was launched, bringing together donations from the Great NHS Sewing Bee and visors produced by the staff of Gordano School for distribution to care homes and NHS groups.

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Portishead Youth Centre staff have been working with local supermarkets and the foodbank to deliver food to families who are shielding or struggling to afford food cupboard basics. The centre is also providing online club sessions and support for families and young people. All sessions and support information can be found at www.portisheadyouthcentre.co.uk and on the Portishead Youth Centre Facebook page.

As elements of normality begin to quietly return, many of the volunteer have returned to work. Residents have been understanding in finding solutions, such as online shopping, utilising friends and family or using early supermarket hours — which is testament to Portishead’s wonderful ability to rise to the challenge, just as it did when the pandemic first began. Doors may be shut, but Portishead’s resilience, kindness and generosity have shone through both sides of them. We thank our volunteers for their efforts — their hard work is not going unnoticed.

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