Youngsters have stepped forward to help a Lakeland community charity continue to function after older volunteers were temporarily sidelined during coronavirus lockdown.
The Northern Fells Group has a usual roster of 100 people running its services and activities but many of those have been self-isolating or are aged over 70, leaving them unable to assist during the current crisis.
So a recruitment drive for younger helpers was launched in March, resulting in another 155 recruits joining, including many local community-minded youngsters. Emily Bauer, 17, from Millhouse near Hesket Newmarket, is among them.
“It has allowed me to not only provide practical help but also maintain a connection with the community in what can feel like a disconnected and isolated time. It has enabled me to meet people (from a distance) that I otherwise would not have met, which has brought both enjoyment and a heightened awareness of the difficulty that many are currently living in,” said Emily, who has been using her skills as a newly-qualified driver to help the group.
Her brother Felix, 15, is also helping. He said: “Being a young volunteer has enabled me to help the community in a small way during this extremely difficult time. Living in the beautiful, rural area we do means it’s sometimes easy to forget the amount of people coronavirus is affecting. However, being involved has really emphasised this fact. I think it is a really important service the Northern Fells Group offer.”
The Northern Fells Group serves 3,700 residents in an area of over 200 square miles covering seven upland parishes; Ireby & Uldale, Boltons, Westward & Rosley, Sebergham & Welton, Caldbeck, Castle Sowerby and Mungrisdale. It runs mini-bus transport, a Men’s Sheds group and youth activities, among other services.
Its new recruits have been busy in recent weeks doing a string of jobs like picking up shopping, posting mail and collecting prescriptions and medicines. Leah Routledge, nine, from Blennerhasset, has been dog walking, baking and delivering food to a woman in the community after her family signed up as volunteers. Village agents also coordinate a “phone a friend” telephone tree, ensuring the most vulnerable residents receive a phone call every three days to check they are okay.
The group is part of the Allerdale Resilience Group, which is supported by Cumbria County Council’s community development team. Libby Graham, from the Northern Fells Group, said: “We are so grateful to all our volunteers, particularly our younger ones. Our older, vulnerable users enjoy seeing their smiling faces and waves. They have told us how much they look forward to their physically distanced visits!
“In 11 weeks since we started this initiative, we have carried out 1,101 ‘assists’ for people in our area. Thanks to everyone who has volunteered to help.”
Cllr Deborah Earl, the county council’s cabinet member for public health and local communities, said: “This is a fantastic example of another community project delivering support to our most vulnerable residents.”