Becki Winkless, Inclusion & Insight Officer, reveals the powerful community welfare initiatives in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The last few weeks have been extraordinary in more ways than I ever imagined, and I am so proud of our new Community Response team which is helping to ensure that no one is hungry or feels lonely.
I usually work alone listening to the views of our residents and providing them with opportunities to engage with The Pioneer Group and its subsidiaries in different ways. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started my role has changed significantly: I am now leading the Community Response Team.
The 27-person strong team is involved in different activities across the Castle Vale estate to ensure that our most vulnerable residents are supported at this difficult time; we have a range of services available to residents of Castle Vale seven days a week.
Firstly, we offer weekly welfare calls. 500 residents on the estate are called every week to make sure they are feeling ok and to establish whether they need any help. The calls also provide a welcome opportunity for some of our residents to simply chat to someone, especially if they are shielding or self-isolating. For some residents, our call may be the only person they speak to all week so it’s vital for their wellbeing. From our calls, we also refer residents into the amazing TeleBuddies scheme run by Compass Support. The initiative matches volunteers and residents with similar personalities so that the same volunteers call a resident every week to start a great conversation while checking in.
Secondly, we have our collection/delivery service, this is where we collect and deliver shopping. This could be anything from picking up food and drink to nipping to the post office to send a loved one a special birthday card or parcel, or with the support of our repairs contractor The Wrekin Housing Group, we can also deliver all important medication. The volunteers undertaking this activity have certainly got used to standing in queues… we are just so grateful the weather that been awesome, and we can build up a Castle Vale-on-Sea tan!
Finally, the busiest service offered by the Community Response Team is food parcels; we work in partnership with The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS), Spitfire Services, The Wrekin Housing Group and our own partnerships team. This is a huge operation:
- I manage the referrals coming in via phone/email from the team at The Pioneer Group, Spitfire Services and local schools and nurseries
- Mashkura from our partnerships team then liaises with TAWS to put in the vital order for the food
- The food is transported from Ladywood to Castle Vale by The Wrekin Housing Group
- It is stored and sorted at Spitfire Services
- On Wednesday mornings it’s all systems go! At least 11 volunteers and I meet early, pack up the parcels, grab a list of addresses, fill our cars to the brim and deliver these vital supplies!
We’ve delivered over 1,200 parcels in total so far!
Castle Vale isn’t the only community we operate in either! With no local food banks based in Stockland Green we realised there was urgent need to support families there too. Our Partnerships team worked with Stockland Green Methodist church to create a hub for the supplies and build a team of local volunteers too. Once again, the team at Wrekin have been amazing even delivering to shielding families in area and even local care homes that were struggling.
This pandemic really has brought out the best in all of us, and there is a very special member of the team that can’t go without a mention – Betty the Trike! She has been partnered up with her temporary co-pilot Lee Crofts (Youth Team Leader for Compass Support). Together they go around the estate clocking up the miles delivering food parcels, collecting donations, playing music and bringing joy to the residents on the Vale, so if you see them whizzing by be sure to give them a wave!