Community support groups are springing up across borough as pandemic takes hold, reports James Cracknell
Charities and local businesses in Waltham Forest are rising to the challenge of supporting the community during a public health crisis unprecedented in modern times.
Hot meal deliveries, mutual aid groups, grocery pick-ups, befriending hotlines, online yoga classes and ‘pub in a box’ packages are just some of the services set up by local organisations in the last few days, as they seek to support residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Using food grown locally by OrganicLea, environmental charity The Hornbeam is organising meals-on-wheels deliveries across the borough, as well as a grocery bag service for people struggling to the get the products they need from shops. People can either collect food from the Hornbeam Cafe in Bakers Arms between 12pm and 3pm or request a bicycle delivery by calling 07492 915 531. Grocery bags include fresh fruit and veg, plus staples such as rice and pasta. Both services operate on a “pay as you feel” basis. Donations are welcome and can be made between 10am and 12pm.
Anne Redelinghuys is helping co-ordinate The Hornbeam’s relief efforts. She told the Echo: “We have a team of 50 volunteers helping us. I think we are well positioned in a time like this to help people – we have been going for 26 years and we are trusted.
“It’s at times like these we have to support each other.”
Revert2Reality Wellbeing Centre in Lea Bridge Road is providing a telephone befriending service for anyone who needs mental health support or simply someone to talk to. Many of the charity’s clients are vulnerable people who may suffer from loneliness, such as elderly widows and disabled people. Founder Aliya Iqbal told the Echo: “We have set up community WhatsApp groups for people to share positive messages and we’re running a befriending service for people stuck indoors.
“It is difficult for people, particularly if you are disabled or on your own, but we are looking out for them, calling them every few days and checking they are okay. One of the people we are in touch with is a lady in the last stages of cancer – she has got no-one else.”
Waltham Forest Community Hub said it was “putting our charity resources to good use” by offering emergency support to elderly people and vulnerable families in isolation. The hub’s team of staff and volunteers is also offering a telephone befriending service and arranging deliveries of essential shopping. If you know someone who needs help, call 020 8223 0707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mill, a community centre based in Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow, is uploading daily online challenges for people to do at home via its website themille17.org and on its social media platforms.
Waltham Forest Council has launched its own community help network, delivered in partnership with charities Age UK Waltham Forest, Eat or Heat, and PL84U. Vulnerable residents can get support including essential food supplies, prescription collections and emergency home repairs.
Emma Tozer, from Age UK Waltham Forest, said: “We provide companionship, advice and support for older people who need it most, all year round. During this outbreak, it is vital that these services continue for those most vulnerable.”
Residents can also sign up as volunteers. Council leader Clare Coghill said: “In times of difficulty, we can take great reassurance in knowing communities throughout Waltham Forest are supporting each other. Waltham Forest Community Help Network is our way of supporting vulnerable residents directly. Let’s remind ourselves of the pride and positive energy that makes us unique and use those attributes to help each other.”
It’s not just charities that are helping, however, as local businesses find innovative new ways to serve customers. East of Eden, a yoga studio in Hatherley Mews, is live-streaming its classes, while Signature Brew, based in Blackhorse Lane, has created The Pub in a Box – a delivery package including beers, bar snacks and pub quiz questions.
Signature Brew co-founder Sam McGregor said: “We’re planning one hell of a piss–up in a brewery when all this blows over.”
For advice and support from the council:
Call 020 8496 3000
Find a mutual aid group in Waltham Forest:
For local businesses in need of support: