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Ilkley Corona Helpline steps back after a job well done

L-R: Alice Knight, Nigel Ezard, Penny Coulthard, Mary Hamilton, and Kate Lofthous

The team behind the successful Ilkley Corona Helpline met in person for the first time (in a socially-distanced way) to mark their outstanding work over the last 6 months, supported by a bank of 463 local volunteers.

When the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Ilkley last March it became clear that with a large number of older residents there were many who would be vulnerable and need additional support. With this in mind several local organisations decided to create the Ilkley Corona Response Group, chaired by Stuart Hyde. It also became clear that there were a number of local people who wanted to volunteer their help.

A team comprising Mary Hamilton of Community Action, Ilkley Town Councillor Ros Brown and Penny Coulthard, Chairman of Ilkley & District Good Neighbours, worked with a small group of volunteers and set up the Ilkley Corona Helpline through a telephone and online form where people could ask for help or be a volunteer. At the same time Matthew Harris, a local IT consultant, volunteered his skills and resources and the helpline and volunteering systems were soon up and running with the first volunteers enrolled by the 17th March, followed by requests from those self-isolating a day later.

Staffing the helpline itself was a group of volunteers - Nigel Ezard, Mary Hamilton, Alice Knight, and Kate Lofthouse - who would offer callers reassurance and match them with suitable support. Over the following 6 months the helpline supported an incredible total of 334 people, including a number who needed practical help with regular shopping or phone calls, and who were referred to Ilkley Good Neighbours. Others required prescriptions to be collected and a rota of volunteers was set up to collect and deliver these. Several callers simply wanted to know that there was help available if required.

Many of the volunteers took on an array of tasks, such as door to door leafleting, sewing scrubs for local GPs and facial coverings. Some assisted with the LS29 Summer Camp for families and played music outside care and residential care homes to help cheer them up, whilst others sang, baked cakes, transported people to medical appointments, fixed boilers and repaired doors.

One local resident said: “I want to thank you and all your colleagues very much indeed. We do really appreciate the kindness of people we have met in Ilkley and ask you to pass on to the Corona virus group our feeling of gratitude for all the work and kindness you have shown to the people of Ilkley.”

Working in partnership with the Ilkley Food Bank, local street co-ordinators, local councillors and the Area Committee Office, a comprehensive support system was provided for the people of Ilkley by the Corona Response helpline and volunteers.

Councillor Ros Brown, Deputy Mayor of Ilkley Town Council, said: “I have seen at close hand, week in and week out, the incredible commitment of those running the Helpline with their calm and caring efficiency. Nothing has been too much trouble for them. I am full of admiration for everyone involved and for the hundreds of volunteers who provided help for others across the town in so many ways.

“Fortunately we were never in the desperate position of needing to call on all the volunteers who signed up, but I want to thank each of the 463 people who did. They provided great encouragement.”

Mark Stidworthy, Mayor of Ilkley Town Council said: “The helpline has been an invaluable help to the Ilkley community. It has harnessed the amazing community response we have seen here in Ilkley and we have been recognised as an area quick to come together to support those in need”

With the easing of local restrictions and a sharp reduction in the number of calls to the helpline, the team are now standing down, but are ready to mobilise again if the situation requires.

People needing support during coronavirus can still get support by calling the Bradford Council helpline on 01274 431000 or NHS Responders on 0808 196 3646


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