The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the importance of community into sharper focus as individuals and groups go to extraordinary lengths to support their neighbourhoods.
Okehampton Covid Support Group have been helping people in Okehampton and the surrounding villages since March last year.
The group was an immediate response to the pandemic, and started as a meeting in a cafe the week before lockdown.
An amazing response to the special phoneline resulted in it still being used with no sign of stopping.
As requests for help grew the group recognised people were in need of support with what was once seen as a basic task such as collecting prescriptions and is continuing to be used as a permanent community service.
Group founder Rebecca Green also established a separate group responding to local food poverty.
She has been sending out slow cookers and recipe books to vulnerable people in the community as well as establishing a ‘bench buddy’ programme run by volunteers which is aimed at encouraging people that have been stuck indoors all year to get back outside again with a buddy whilst enjoying a coffee and biscuit.
This month the groups both won a LiveWest Community Stars award which sets out to recognise extraordinary acts of kindness.
Rebecca said: “We have seen people struggling with only enough money to either pay the bills or eat, we want to create a community where everyone cares about each other.
"Eating nutritional meals is so important to health and wellbeing and the people of Okehampton can request our support. Thanks to funding from LiveWest so much has been made possible.”
Okehampton Community Kitchen CIC has been a huge success, this has been developed by Rebecca from her experiences of trying to respond to local needs during the pandemic.
As well as providing over 160 meals a week, they run a youth food project and are looking to build people’s independence in relation to food. They provide meals in many circumstances.
Brian Wood, one of the founders of Okehampton Covid Support Group, said: “It has been a privilege and pleasure to help other people in crisis and I am delighted that our groups have been recognised for a community award.
"We have had great funding support, it’s all about coordination. We still have phone calls come in every day with people needing assistance with things like shopping and filling in forms.
"There’s a definite gap locally for responding to real community needs and I am pleased we could play a part in addressing them.”
Alison Knight, Community Connector at LiveWest, said: “These groups supported LiveWest families who were waiting for universal credit by providing free nutritious meals and gave other support. I recently signposted an elderly man who had just come out of hospital and still needed to recover but was finding it difficult to get nutritious food.
"They went out with two meals and a pudding and he was very pleased.”
The LiveWest Community Stars awards run on a quarterly basis and include two categories. One is open to individuals and the other to community groups. The awards recognise the efforts being taken to benefit LiveWest’s communities.
In the next round you can nominate yourself or someone else you feel deserves special recognition. LiveWest will award its quarterly Community Star individual winners with a £50 Love to Shop voucher, while issuing £100 for the quarterly winners in the community groups section.
The money can be used to develop the services they are providing for the community. All nominations will be recognised on the LiveWest Website.
Leanda Flower, Community Investment Manager for LiveWest, said: “The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on everyday lives, with people having to change the way they live and work.
“We have been wowed by stories showing how our customers are going above and beyond to support each other during these exceptionally challenging times.
“Our MakingADifference campaign has already helped to celebrate some of the work of our special people and is showing that community spirit continues to thrive in the South West.
“It's truly inspiring to hear stories about how people across the region are helping their neighbours, friends, families and businesses, making such a big difference and bringing a smile to someone's face.
“We want to hear more of these stories, and we are encouraging people to nominate their community hero.”
LiveWest’s customer InFocus group will be selecting the quarterly winners in both the individual and community groups categories.
To nominate yourself or someone else for the Community Stars awards, click here.