Thorpe Helping Hands volunteer group supports local community during coronavirus crisis

A grassroots support group has been set up by Thorpe St Andrew residents, who have recruited volunteers to help those in the community affected by the coronavirus lockdown.

Called Thorpe Helping Hands, the volunteer group has been supporting fellow residents since early April, assisting those who are self-isolating with shopping, prescriptions, food parcels, posting letters, gardening and ensuring that “no one is left behind”.

As many people don’t have access to social media and the internet, volunteers printed leaflets that were delivered to every household in the parish, informing the community that help and support was available. Thorpe Helping Hands has now recruited more than 70 local volunteers and supported more than 60 individuals and families in need during the coronavirus crisis.

Local businesses and individuals have also donated food and other necessities to support vulnerable families and individuals in the community – but more donations are needed, such as food essentials, personal items and play materials for children such as books, puzzles and art supplies.

Inga Kenny, Thorpe Helping Hands’ coordinator, said: “We are very grateful to the local people, businesses and organisations who have already been very generous – giving their time and food donations, puzzles, games and books to help those who have been hit by this crisis. There are, however, still many families and individuals in need of food and other essentials, to support not only their physical health but also their mental wellbeing.”

The group is also working with Lionwood Infant and Junior schools to help support their vulnerable families, with food parcels put together with donations from local businesses and individuals.

Glenda Prior, parent support advisor at Lionwood, said: “The support is needed in our community as it enables us to connect with our whole community. It lets us reach out and care for one another, hold out a hand or a voice when people are at their most vulnerable.

“It links communities together, to understand one another and the needs – not to hide but to share everybody’s abilities, to all be equal. Community cohesion is vital in order for us all to belong and be safe.

“This support may help to put us back on this road when the world had sped up so much and was leaving lots of us behind. The support from Thorpe Helping Hands is not just a provision for supporting those in need but a key part to forming a new community that recognises and understands everyone’s needs.”

The group organisers aim to establish Thorpe Helping Hands as a permanent Norfolk Good Neighbour scheme, with the support of Community Action Norfolk (CAN).

This will help the valuable work to continue, and also offer support and safeguarding for volunteers.

Community Action Norfolk is offering guidance, policies and links to other groups, to bolster the support offered by Thorpe Helping Hands both during and after the pandemic.

Thorpe Helping Hands’ message is: “If you are in a household that needs help in any way, please don’t hesitate to call us. We also offer a ‘check and chat’ service by phone to support people feeling isolated or anxious during this crisis. No one gets left behind.”