Posts by Alan Whitlock
Elmbridge Continues to be Painted Silver
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Painting Our World in Silver is a charity that aims to combat loneliness and isolation, bringing older people together to engage in fun creative activities. Over 50 Elmbridge residents regularly join in the fun at Whiteley Village Hall but, due to Covid-19, they’ve been forced to cancel their regular get togethers.

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With lockdown in place, Painting our World in Silver immediately took up the challenge of delivering craft and activity care packages across the Borough of Elmbridge.  So far, they have delivered over 300 and feedback has been fantastic, with many older and isolated users really looking forward to receiving their deliveries.

Due to the age and vulnerability of their users, the charity believe that they will have to continue delivering these packages until December but they were running out of funds for the kits. Working in partnership with local company, JTI, Walton Charity were delighted to offer a Community Grant of £900 which will enable the charity’s fantastic team of volunteers to continue deliveries for the next four months.

Local Minibus Provides Lifeline for Sheltered Housing Residents
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For residents of Fenner House and Mayfield, the two sheltered housing schemes managed by Walton Charity, the popular minibus service has become a lifeline during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The minibus, run by Together Transport Services, is usually used for weekly shopping trips and social outings but is now offering food deliveries six days a week and collecting prescriptions from pharmacies for residents who can’t leave their flats. 

Larry Dickens-Batten, who heads up the service, is working with our Sheltered Scheme Managers and staff to support residents while social distancing restrictions are in place. Larry said: “Some of the residents I have spoken to are feeling a loss of independence while in lockdown. Some are feeling anxious about the current situation. There is not much that we at Total Transport Services can do, but time is something we do have. When dropping off shopping I try to stay for a chat at the door (wearing a mask and PPE). I hope this helps to keep up morale and make residents feel a bit more connected to the outside world.” 

Our Community Allotment Provides Lockdown Support

A growing body of evidence confirms the benefits of gardening for our health and well-being. GPs often include gardening when socially prescribing as it’s such a great physical and emotional activity.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, our weekly Community Allotment sessions at our allotment on Terrace Road offered people dealing with mental health issues, including anxiety and isolation, an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and join in a group project. The lockdown restrictions, however, meant we had to change the way our meet-ups worked.

A vital part of community projects like this is the social aspect of sharing a cup of tea or coffee and having a chat. This, sadly, was the very first thing to stop. Instead we now have twice weekly Zoom calls for all our members. Initially this was a challenge, and for many of us was out of our comfort zones, but now, every Tuesday, we watch a short Pots & Trowels YouTube video and have an informal chat. On Fridays, we have fun playing bingo or a quiz. This has really helped to maintain the social connections and has been great for us to get to know each other in a different way.

A recent survey by Capital Growth has found that 70% of community gardens have found a way to function, although in a limited capacity, and continue supporting their volunteers. At our Community Allotment, we’ve limited visits to two people per day on site, enabling us to comply with social distancing. We’ve provided everyone with their own gloves, and we don’t allow tools to be shared. Despite the restrictions, it has been a special time as I’ve been able to spend quality one-to-one time with the volunteers.

What next? We are planning commemorative projects and will be asking everyone to paint a ceramic piece at home which can be hung at the allotment. It will be a great way for us to remember these unusual times once we are all back together at the Community Allotment again.

Helping Local Families Facing Food Poverty
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On the first day of the Covid-19 lockdown, Walton Family Centre got in touch with us for emergency funds. We gave them a £1,000 grant to buy supermarket vouchers. Being quick off the mark meant that our grant enabled them to respond swiftly to families in Walton and those in the wider community of Elmbridge facing food poverty.

The Centre reached out to all Elmbridge schools and other agencies working with children up to the age of 11 years old and openly encouraged them to refer families to them. With the help of our funding, together we have been able to support 50 Elmbridge families.

The Centre is finding that those facing food poverty are mostly those who are self-employed, on zero hours contracts, on furlough, have lost their jobs or are single parents who have been forced to give up their work in order to home school their children.

Katie Vinnicombe, Senior Family Support Worker at Walton Family Centre, gave us just one example of how her team has been able to help a local family. One parent has been in hospital since Christmas following a deterioration in their mental health. One child attends a specialist school, whilst the other attends a different local school. The family was already struggling to cope with children in different schools, a child with additional needs and a parent in hospital. Then, when lockdown started the other parent, who is self-employed, lost their work and income overnight. To make matters worse, debts accrued as a result of the parent’s mental health difficulties came to light and the family were left with no money to buy essentials. The family contacted the Centre who were able to supply the family with weekly food packages and vouchers to buy fresh food fortnightly. The parent is now out of hospital, but as yet they have not received any government support.

Katie says, “I would say we have been a literal lifeline for these families during the pandemic”.