A coronavirus support group in Olney has been praised for its quick response and outstanding efforts to help those currently most vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Olney Covid19 Support Group (OCSG) was launched in mid-March by five local residents who began by establishing partnerships with care providers, businesses and suppliers in and around the town.
They then put out a call for community volunteers – with more than 250 Olney residents coming forward to help support over 100 people who are self-isolating in the town and surrounding villages without any support network of their own.
Phil Geach, a retired senior police officer and OCSG co-founder, said: "Our purpose is very simple - we are here to help those in our community who are unable to help themselves during this difficult time."
The group has been using a combination of traditional and modern communication methods to reach as many of the area’s 7,500 residents as possible. This began with a simple flyer, delivered to every household, which asked for volunteers on the one side and the contact details of those needing support on the reverse. People could respond via email or with a good old-fashioned phone call.
Having swiftly built up a database of volunteers, the group then put in place clear procedures and guidelines to ensure the reliable and safe provision of key services, including:
- collection and delivery of food shopping
- collection and delivery of prescriptions
- telephone support, for those in need of advice or just someone to talk to
The group also set up an online banking facility to reduce the need for cash payments – backed up by contactless card readers that can be used by self-isolators who do not have access to internet banking. Well over 100 deliveries have been made to date.
Local Milton Keynes councillors Keith McLean, Peter Geary and David Hosking commented: "We have been hugely impressed with the effective way in which the Olney Covid19 Support Group have set things up. The professionalism of those involved should be seen as an exemplar for others looking to help their communities."
The group's work has also attracted the attention of Milton Keynes North MP Ben Everitt, who said: "This is a fantastic example of residents looking out for each other. I congratulate the group for their approach and I have shared this with colleagues in government as an excellent example of local community strength and resilience."
Further information about the group's work can be found on the OCSG Facebook page. If you live in the Olney area and need support, or would like to volunteer, you can email email@example.com or call 07309 464 422.
Anyone looking for advice on setting up a similar support group in their own area is welcome to contact Phil Geach via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.