Surge in volunteers helps Biggleswade Good Neighbours care for community during pandemic

Biggleswade Good Neighbours has doubled its volunteer base to more than 200 people as the group continues to help those who are most at risk during the Covid-19 crisis.

By Steve Sims
Wednesday, 27th May 2020, 11:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th May 2020, 12:02 pm

They have become the go-to organisation for anyone who is socially isolating and unable to go shopping or pick up prescriptions.

Unfortunately some of their most active volunteers are in the vulnerable category, and were forced to stay at home and shield themselves.

However, at just the right time a huge number of new volunteers stepped forward, many of them furloughed from work.

Andy Cowley (left), who delivers medicine on his motorcycle, and chairman John Robertson (right)

This presented a logistical challenge to get them all signed up, but now that the dust has settled BGN has doubled its volunteer base to over 200 people.

Local businesses, particularly the pharmacies, have been working closely with the group to streamline the processing and pick-up of prescriptions.

Amy Brain, a supervisor at LloydsPharmacy, said: “BGN have been selflessly aiding the members of the community who have had to shield.

Through the bat phone, as we’ve taken to calling it, we’ve been able to coordinate daily prescription pick-ups for people’s monthly medication.

“Due to their fantastic network of volunteers we’ve also been able to get emergency medications and antibiotics out to the most vulnerable in the community.

“BGN have been vital to the community during this pandemic and deserve all the praise we can give for their work. In a time when it’s only too easy to be scared at home and only worry about yourself they are doing their utmost to care for all members of the community, especially those who have been isolated. We could not be prouder to have worked with these amazing individuals.”

With the number of clients having doubled to over 400 people and a massive increase in demand, manning the phones is now a full-time job. This challenge has been taken up by a small number of experienced volunteers who coordinate the jobs.

In addition, around 250 clients have requested regular phone calls, and a team of almost 100 volunteers call regularly for a chat and to check that all is well.

Alice Harding, a regular phone-holder, emphasises that “although it’s been exceptionally busy it is a privilege to hear first hand from clients and volunteers what a difference we are making – not only through our usual service but also random acts of kindness such as delivering home-baked cakes to clients, buying them flowers and checking up on people who haven’t been in contact for a while.”

Looking to the future, the BGN chair, John Robertson, added: “I hope that two of the lasting legacies from this crisis will be a greater range of volunteers for us to call on in the future, and, perhaps even more importantly, that a lasting support network for the lonely and vulnerable of Biggleswade will have been firmly established.”

Rather than accept donations BGN now ask people to help fund the food banks at the Baptist Church and Preen, which have provided critical support for those whose incomes have fallen.

Call 07771 104255 if you need assistance or want to volunteer. Once lockdown restrictions ease the group hope to resume its normal services of giving lifts to appointments or shopping, cutting the grass, help with decluttering or simply having a cup of tea and a chat.