Coronavirus: Honiton groups pull together to support those in need in the community

Honiton Health Matters trustee Heather Penwarden. Photo: Callum Lawton

Honiton Health Matters trustee Heather Penwarden. Photo: Callum Lawton - Credit: Archant

In the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, many Honiton groups go together to support people in the community

Neil Hurlock of TRIP in Honiton. Ref mhh 42 19TI 2222. Picture: Terry Ife

Neil Hurlock of TRIP in Honiton. Ref mhh 42 19TI 2222. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

It is just over a month since key groups in Honiton met up to discuss how they could respond to the then impending coronavirus outbreak.

Heather Penwarden has taken a leading role in the co-ordinating the efforts and has been reflecting on how the group has been working since its formation.

At the first meeting, on March 17, more than 20 groups attended, representing schools, churches, surgery, town and district councillors, supermarkets and many voluntary groups.

After 3 hours the Honiton Community Coronavirus Volunteer Support network was formed under the banner, Be Strong, Be Kind, Be Safe.

Dan Lavery of the Devon Freewheelers. Ref exe 1246-13-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Dan Lavery of the Devon Freewheelers. Ref exe 1246-13-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Heather said: “The key strength of the network comes from the core been made up of existing organisations now all working together.

“We have then been able to build on this with new groups forming and the recruiting of many new volunteers to help with supporting the people in our community who are vulnerable and socially isolating or in a no wages or low income situation.

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“As chairman of the Honiton Hospital and Community League of Friends, my role has become to link the NHS and Social Services staff working locally with our volunteer network.

“Over the past four weeks I have been witness to some amazing acts of kindness and strength as we all come together in unity to support each other through these most challenging of times.”

The group is made up of Random Kitchen, The Beehive, The Honiton Community Food Bank, TRIP, Honiton Health Matters, Devon Freewheelers and volunteer community area teams

At Random Kitchen, town councillor Jason Hannay, said: “The Random Kitchen has sent out more than 600, three-course meals. Hot and frozen. This is used by families awaiting universal credits after losing out on employment, the individual who has no options of furlough from employment, to the elderly who has somehow slipped through the system. No one should suffer in silence behind closed doors.

“We at the Random Kitchen have a fab team, the ‘hunter gatherers’, Creator of Random meals, organisers of food drop, administration and delivery guys, the list is endless. We have done this free of charge using Honiton RFC facilities. The generosity of the towns folk , the individual high street shops Porkies the family Butchers, Wine Bar, Lace Makers, Honiton Fishmongers are amongst many.

“Even our local supermarkets, all have been so amazing supporting their community by donating time, energy, foods, packaging and much more.

“In the back ground continuous support from other organisations finding funding and donations to finance where needed, such as utility bills, required cleaning materials etc.

“The feedback we are getting from social services, family liaison teams and individuals is fantastic, something that afterwards could continue to support many.”

He also said they would like to thank Duncan Sheridan-Smith, from Tesco, Julie Marish, from Waitrose Sidmouth and Bernard – from Vaniers.

At The Beehive, Claire Brown and her team started the Information Support line.

Initially at the Beehive, but following Government advice it ‘re-located’ to Claire’s home and to date it has answered and hopefully helped 250 local people.

Claire said: “Calls have ranged from distant relatives trying to ensure there is support for their loved ones to local people on their own or self-isolating elderly couples wanting to have help with simple tasks like shopping, dog walking, collection of medicines, repairing broken spectacles, where to get books, shop opening hours, what to do if your car has broken down, how to get their landline repaired, who to speak to about Universal Credit/benefit support etc.”

Operators also have a bank of other support group contact details (mainly surrounding villages) to give to people if they live outside of our own support network.

At TRIP manage Neil Hurlock, said: “Since the start of the lockdown, we have undertaken over 300 support requests, mainly shopping for this isolated and at risk.

“We have heard some amazing feedback, both form the volunteers and the people who use the service.

“One volunteer told me this week she was delivering shopping he she heard clapping from the house next door – and the neighbour said she was clapping for her!.

“He went onto say “ we will continue to help the community as best we can and feel proud to be part of such a great community response, we feel proud !”.

Volunteer Nicki Perry, from LED Honiton, “Having been furloughed from my job it was nice to find a positive thing to do with my spare time that would go a small way to help others during these tough times. Being able to do the weekly shop for local residents is a simple task that is essential for those self-isolating.

“TRIP have organised the volunteer team very well and are very highly regarded by all those that have requested their help. It is a pleasure to help where I can and I would encourage others to do the same if they can.”

Norman Amey, the foodbank organiser, said to switch from pick up to home delivery happened quickly.

The deliveries are being done alongside volunteers from the Round Table.

Mr Amey said: “We recognise how quickly people’s circumstances can change, and we’re here to help alleviate food poverty where we can”.

You can email or call 01404 43800.

Honiton Health Matters chairman Steve Craddock said: “Honiton Health Matters have been kept rather busy during this lock down, mainly with administration works, although we have carried out shopping for elderly and vulnerable and walked dogs for people who are going through cancer treatment and are not allowed out.”

He also said the group’s website offers a range of information to help in the current circumstances. Visit

He went on to say: “We also have been applying for funding so that we can support these groups who are doing so much to help and support the community and we are pleased to announce that they have received grant funding from the Devon Community Foundation and Devon County Council, that we using to support the various organisations that are helping our community to keep fed and stay well during the Covid-19 crisis.

Amber Wren was quick off the mark in recognising the need to get organised quickly.

She set up a Facebook group and collected names for those volunteers willing to help with streets where they live. ID checks and vetting is done via TRIP to support safeguarding and the details of who is the local area volunteer can be found on the Facebook page.

Caroline Retter, operations manager at Devon Freewheelers, said among other things they have been coolecting prescriptions for people.

She said: “We have done more than 200, for those self-isolating who have no one else to collect for them.”

Carole asked that if you can check the prescription is ready first, then call, 0300 8000109

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