The Lewes Coronavirus Volunteers (LCV) now number over 650 and come from all walks of life, including sports clubs, town councillors, bonfire societies and vicars. They undertake hundreds of tasks of all kinds, such as providing essential provisions, medicines and other deliveries to people who are self-isolating.
The hardworking group is the brainchild of founder Emma Amies who, ahead of the lockdown, could see the need for a network of volunteers to assist vulnerable people in Lewes and the surrounding district. She set up a Facebook page, and the response was immediate and immense. Five per cent of the town’s population are involved with the scheme.
Emma said: “It’s uplifting to see the level of volunteering and generosity of local people in these challenging times. We have had so many offers of help that we are now moving across to a new database which was developed in Seaford to enable us to allocate even more tasks. Local volunteers and vital donations are providing a lifeline for people through the pandemic lockdown.”
Oli Henman, a local councillor and active volunteer, echoed Emma’s sentiments: “LCV hascaptured the spirit of Lewes. So many people in our town are aware of the need to support others in these tough times, and it provides a much-needed beacon of light in the darkness.
“Let us hope that as we eventually emerge from lockdown that this generosity and community spirit continues to enable us to build a better and fairer society.”
One of the most impressive initiatives is the Saturday food bank collection which brings in several thousands of items each week from collection points at all three main supermarkets in the town – enough to last families in need for six weeks.
All donations are handled via the emergency Foodbank Hub, run by Trinity churches.
Among the items delivered by the volunteers are self-care kits, put together by ken volunteer Louise Bradley and her daughters Savannah and Nadine. The first batch of the kits went to The Foundry and items contained included a breakfast bar, sugar-free sweets and gum, hand moisturiser, wet wipes for hands and face, a highlighter pen, a pen and note pad, shower gel, hand wash, deodorant and an energy drink.
Sarah Caulfield, social prescriber at Foundry Healthcare, said: “We could not be more grateful to Lewes Coronavirus Volunteers for these incredible self-care kits. Louise Bradley and her daughters have put such care into creating these, and they offer a much-needed morale boost to our incredible teams.
“The support offered to us by LCV throughout these difficult times has been outstanding. What great community spirit.”
Louise Bradley added: “It was a joy to be able to put smiles on faces amongst all this doom and gloom. We can’t wait to do it again.”
The kits in the first delivery included rainbow bracelets created by a little boy called Usain as a thank-you to the NHS. More batches of kits have now been delivered.
LCV already has strong backing from Lewes District Council, the Town Council and private donors, but it is rapidly expanding and has launched a crowdfunding appeal with a target of £30,000.
The funding goes towards:
• Supporting and maintaining the three food banks in Lewes
• Directly supporting NHS frontline staff and carers.
• Building a database of professionals who can offer well-being, mental health, financial and legal advice
• Investing in infrastructures such as an improved website and database.
Lewes District Council leader Zoe Nicholson said: “I cannot overstate the contribution LCV efforts have made to keep people safe and supported.
“Since the outbreak began, the council and other public services have been working around the clock to respond to the challenge of Covid-19. It is people such as LCV who have been the heroes of this outbreak and made sure that no-one in the community is left without the support they need.” •
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If you would like to donate, visit the crowdfunding page here: crowdfunder.co.uk/lewes-coronavirus-volunteers