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Volunteers begin delivering food to vulnerable residents

Bracknell Forest community volunteers

Bracknell Forest Community Response Volunteers took to the streets to begin delivering food supplies to medically vulnerable residents over the weekend, supporting the council with its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In partnership with Healthwatch Bracknell Forest and Involve Community Services, and supported by the Parish and Town Councils, Bracknell Forest Council launched a borough-wide community response scheme.

The scheme encourages residents to volunteer to help vulnerable residents who are being shielded and those living with them from coronavirus. It also supports people who are self-isolating and their families.

The scheme, called Bracknell Forest Community Response, has received more than 1,400 registrations from volunteers across the borough since it launched just over two weeks ago.

On Sunday, 29 March, some of those volunteers were enlisted to help begin delivering emergency food. Council staff also volunteered their time to package up food delivered from the Government into parcels, along with the addition of fresh bread and milk, which the council sourced.

The food parcels were then sent to Braybrooke Community Hall where Healthwatch Bracknell Forest assigned each parcel to a community volunteer. 25 residents gave up their time to deliver emergency food supplies to the borough’s most vulnerable and many more will be doing so in the coming weeks as the pandemic continues.

Local businesses also gave their support to the initiative with companies all going above and beyond to make sure of the smooth set up and operation of the emergency food distribution.

Cllr Paul Bettison OBE, Leader of Bracknell Forest Council, said:

“The community spirit in Bracknell Forest is wonderful and it has really come alive in the past few weeks. I’m truly humbled by the huge number of people who have volunteered to help those in need.

“The Bracknell Forest Community Response Hub is an important part of the work the council is doing to shield the vulnerable and extremely vulnerable from the risk of contracting coronavirus. I’d like to thank our partners, involve and Healthwatch Bracknell Forest, as well as the Town and Parish councils and local businesses, for their support in making this happen.

“However, our work doesn’t stop there. The council’s team will soon be contacting people who have registered with the Government’s shielding vulnerable people initiative to find out how we can best support them going forward.

“For this we’ll be working with our partners and calling on our network of Community Response Volunteers, so I’d like to thank each and every resident who has signed up to help those in need during this unprecedented time. We couldn’t do this without you.”

Chris Taylor from Healthwatch said:

"We had to move very quickly over the weekend to get these essential food parcels delivered to the people who really needed them; the volunteers responded at short notice and were outstanding. One resident and his wife were in tears when they called us to thank the system for the delivery."

Phil Cook, General Manager, Involve Community Services, said:

“It’s great to see there is such strong community spirit in the borough and to be working together with other organisations, communities and volunteers in a rapidly changing situation.

“Any volunteers that have stepped forward and not yet had the chance to get involved, bear with us as there will be tasks for you as things progress over the coming weeks.

“Don’t forget that simply reaching out to a family member, friend or neighbour is so important at the moment so if there is someone you haven’t checked in on for a while, why not give them a call?”

Find out more about volunteering for the Bracknell Forest Community Response through the Healthwatch Bracknell Forest website.

*Thank you to all local businesses which have supported the council with the Bracknell Forest Community Response Hub:

  • Involve Community Services and Healthwatch Bracknell Forest for their collaboration in setting up the Bracknell Forest Community Response Hub and coordinating the community volunteering effort for food distribution
  • Bracknell Town and Parish Councils for their collaboration, offers of support and providing access to community halls for the volunteers to collect the food parcels
  • Savills for coordinating a lease at will on the emergency food distribution centre in Princess Square within 24 hours
  • Bracknell Regeneration Partnership and The Lexicon for their continued support with the Bracknell Forest Community Response Hub
  • Waitrose for providing free-of-charge fresh bread, milk and tea bags to add to food packages
  • The Range and Morrisons for providing bags for the food parcels
  • Etherlive for setting up wifi access at the emergency food distribution within 24 hours
  • i-Prints for sourcing and printing 100 t-shirts for the community volunteers to wear, making sure they’re easily identifiable to residents in a short space of time