A WILTSHIRE Community Foundation fund set up to help voluntary groups provide immediate relief from the coronavirus crisis has broken the half million pound barrier in just five weeks.
The Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund now stands at £543,415 and has already distributed more than £280,000 to almost 80 groups across the county.
The community foundation’s interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said staff are working flat out to deal with applications for help as they flood in. “It’s been an incredible effort by a small team,” she said, “but that only matches the amazing energy and achievements of the groups we are funding. It has been truly humbling to see how so many people have stepped up to meet the demands of the pandemic and help keep their communities stay safe.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have had such wonderful generosity from individual donors, charitable trusts, companies and the National Emergencies Trust and we are very, very grateful to have been able to pass that money on to where it is most desperately needed.”
One beneficiary has been Stratton Juniors Football Club, which set up a hot meal delivery service for elderly isolated people.
Chairman Magnus Painter, who has had to put his driving school and airport transfer businesses on hold during the pandemic, has been given a £2,000 grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund to help keep the service going.
He said: “My mum Margaret passed away last October and I was thinking about her and what she might have needed during these times and that put the idea in my head. My in-laws are having to isolate as well so I was thinking about them too.”
He ran the idea past club secretary Paul Surridge and the pair set about putting a plan to deliver meals on a Tuesday and Friday into action. “I asked on Facebook if having a hot lunch delivered was something people would like for their relatives and it started building up from there,” said Mr Painter.
“We started cooking from home for the first few weeks and it started to grow. We had people contacting us whose parents are on their own saying having a lunch two days a week would benefit them. The Royal British Legion have started referring people to us too. We’ve been delivering to Upper and Lower Stratton as well as West Swindon and Redhouse. We are up to 85 and that’s our limit now really.”
He has enlisted ten of the club’s coaches, many of whom are on furlough, to help with deliveries. “All the volunteers are brilliant and if we are doing mash they all help peel the potatoes too.”
Young players from the club have been drawing pictures and writing letters to send out with the meals.
“The grant from Wiltshire Community Foundation has been brilliant and not only will it help us keep going for a couple of months, it will also help us to buy good quality, nutritious food.
Mrs Oliver said: “These groups are showing how resilient the voluntary sector has been in the face of this crisis. We know there are many, many of them out there who are struggling with increased demand and greatly reduced fundraising capacity, so our support is going to be more important than ever in the coming months.”
To donate to the fund, or to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.