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Incredible community support for pandemic volunteer team

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WESTBURY’S pandemic volunteers are still working hard to support the community as demand for the service continues.

As part of the Westbury Town Council initiative, Open Westbury, volunteers have been helping deliver essential food boxes to residents in need. And according to the town council’s clerk, Deborah Urch, demand for the service is increasing.

“We are sending out about 50 boxes of food a week, and that is going up,” said Deborah, “we are seeing more and more people need the service each week.

“Whilst we don’t know why this is for definite, I suspect it is because more people are finding themselves in difficult situations – they’re either on ‘zero hours’ contracts at work, or have been made redundant because the furlough scheme is coming to an end – we’re hearing more and more of that beginning to happen.”

And with demand for the service showing no sign of decline, the community has responded, with another 30 volunteers signing up to help.

“We’ve been very lucky,” said Deborah, “we have been incredibly supported by the community. Recently we have had a small group of about six trusty volunteers keeping the service running for us – so these new volunteers will be a huge help.”

The emergency food service recently moved its headquarters from the Laverton to Crosspoint’s welcome centre in the Market Place.

“We had to move out of the Laverton as it is a community space, and it needed to be available for use. And we had so much food, it took over the hall! We still have a “Great Wall of China’ made out of pasta – about 150 boxes of pasta.

“So our volunteers are working out of Crosspoint – they look after the community fridge, the foodbank and sort the donations of food we receive.”

About the future of the service, Deborah explains, “We see this service as long-term, while it is still needed. At some point we’d like to think that people will no longer need it, and it will revert back to being a community fridge where people can come and go and help themselves. But we will be there as long as the community needs it.

“Westbury Town Council is in the process of drafting its strategy, which will look at what will happen and how the town council responds in the event of a second wave or local lockdown. More details of this will come in the early autumn.”

As well as becoming the new home for the town council’s emergency food service, Crosspoint also took over responsibility for the Neighbourhood Helpline, which was set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The service has now been incorporated into the ‘Crosspoint. Connect’ service.

As well as signposting callers to the council’s emergency food service, ‘Crosspoint Connect’ is also there for those who are in need of a chat, those in need of guidance with benefits like Universal Credit, and those who need to be directed to the right organisation for their problems.

Chair of Crosspoint, Len Clift, told White Horse News, “We are the first point of call for people – they are asking us for help with specific problems or issues – someone called recently about someone they know who is homeless. They are asking about the foodbank, which we pass on to the town council; and they are asking for help filling in forms, for things like Universal Credit – and that has always been Crosspoint’s ‘bread and butter’.

“As we come further out of lockdown, we are working on how to open Crosspoint again and let people in for one-to-one appointments.”

For information and support, call Crosspoint Connect on 01373 865557 – it is open Mondays and Fridays between 2-4pm and Wednesdays 10-12pm.

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