Surge in Doncaster volunteers to help vulnerable during crisis

Doncaster has seen a surge in volunteers coming forward to help vulnerable residents, say organisations helping look after those at risk.

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 8:39 pm

But groups working to help during the coronavirus crisis have had their work hampered by those who have been panic-buying at the supermarkets.

The Mexborough-based Food Aware food bank has seen people offer to help its work after it joined the co-ordinated efforts to keep the vulnerable supplied.

They are now part of a wider network of support across Doncaster, which also involved Doncaster Council, St Leger Homes and organisations like the Manna community interest company in Bentley which runs Bentley Pavilion.

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Mark Dockerty and Sean Gibbons, pictured outside Mexborough Family Hub. Picture: NDFP-24-03-20 Food Volunteers 2-NMSY

Sean Gibbons, who runs Food Aware, said it was a busy time, and the organisation was being contacted from beyond its usual area of operation, around Mexborough.

“We’ve got supplies coming in from Morrisons and Lidl, but there are some shops where they have not had a loaf left. But there have also been businesses closing, who have donated, for instance the Wetherspoons in Mexborough, who donated their remaining food.

“We are working with Manna, and they have been using the fresh ingredients to create soups and meals at their pit stop cafe, which they are freezing for meals to be distributed when they are needed.

“We want to give people support and if it means dropping things off for other organisations we will do that.

Mark Dockerty and Sean Gibbons, pictured outside Mexborough Family Hub. Picture: NDFP-24-03-20 Food Volunteers 3-NMSY

“We have started to see volunteers come forward. And if you join our volunteers you will be supported, and not put in a vulnerable position.

“It’s encouraging to see so many good willed people who want to help people less fortunate.”

He said some projects they had supported had closed because of the current restrictions, including the Thorne and Moorends food bank, the Wellness Centre in Intake, BFriend, SMILE Doncaster, and Dearne Valley Personal Development Centre.

But others were springing up, such as the Cry foodbank in Askern.

Jason Hickman, cook and cafe manager, in February 2019 at the cafe at Bentley Pavilion

He said some of his organisation’s drop off points had closed, such as Mexborough Library, but others were still running, such as Mexborough Family Hub, Sainsbury’s in Conisbrough, and Craganour Bungalow in Denaby.

His organisation has seen the affect of panic buying, in that less surplus food was coming in from the supermarkets.

“Because of that, I know an 85-year-old who was down to his last bowl of cereal and was running out of toilet rolls,” he said.

Email Sean on [email protected] wih any offers of help.

Food Aware has now added Edlington Community Organisation (ECO) to the organisations it is supplying.

ECO joined the relief effort after Yorkshire Main Community Centre, the venue it runs locally, saw all its activities close within the space of a few days, ranging from youth clubs and exercise classes to craft groups and quizzes.

By midday on Friday, they were all closed.

Sam Siddall, who is co-ordinating ECO’s work, said: “We decided to stay open in the capacity of emergency food packs for people who are vulnerable or self isolating and befriending.

“We have had a food bank for some years. We’re still doing emergency food parcels. For the befriending, we have people who have volunteered to call people every day, and we’re doing a delivery service.”

They are part of a joint effort in Edlington, with the Helping Hands Community Centre, formerly the Hill Top Centre, also helping.

“Some volunteers had to step down because they are over 70.

“But we have had more than 30 people come forward since the end of last week.”

They have been delivering to Edlington, Old Edlington and Warmsworth.

She said they too had been impacted by people who had been panic buying. Some people donate money to them for food, but they have been unable to buy some items for their packs because of the empty supermarket shelves that have been seen recently.

To sign up as a volunteer via Doncaster Council to assist others who are self isolating log onto