'Connections form' as volunteers help Sheffield's locked-down older people
Both had raised money for various charities in the past, but providing hands-on crisis response for Age UK Sheffield was something new to them both.
The charity has been forced to reposition itself, taking many of its face-to-face services, such as advice sessions and home visits, telephone-only, and setting up a food parcel delivery service from scratch.
That is where the hundreds of new volunteers came in, packing parcels at St Mary’s Church in Bramall Lane, and making deliveries across the city..
Father-of-two Mr Ashford, 39, of Carter Knowle, who works in child protection, had some spare time while waiting for a new job to start.
He said: “A lot of support was popping up, with notes being popped through letterboxes offering to help with shopping for example, but with my background working in safeguarding, I wanted to do something more official.
“Now I’ve been helping for a few weeks, I’m seeing the difference it is making to the people who are receiving parcels. We’re starting to strike up conversations from two metres away.
“I’ve been struck by how grateful people are. Once this is all over, people may not need the support anymore, but I hope the kindness and community spirit remains.”
Solicitor Mrs Davies, 54, from Totley, said: “At the moment there are so many vulnerable people who need help. I have a 92-year-old dad who is in a care home, and not allowed visitors, and I can’t do anything to protect him, so getting involved with Age UK Sheffield has been something I can do to help practically.
“Some of the people I deliver to, I have been back to weekly, and it’s been really good to have a chat and see that connection forming. It sounds like a cliche but it has been good to do something useful at a time when I think everybody feels a bit useless.”
Age UK Sheffield chief executive Steve Chu said the work being done by volunteers in the city was “absolutely essential”.
“We are targeting support at people who need it most,” he said. “These are people who would have been completely isolated without help.
“It has been amazing to see, not just here, but across the country, how people have pulled together. After a period where the country has been divided, we now have a common cause to unite around.”