New relationships are getting things done in Mid and East Antrim
Access to food parcels and essential services has been a priority for groups in Mid and East Antrim and some existing projects have proven to be even more important during Covid-19. All groups acknowledge that none of these achievements would have been made without the extraordinary efforts of their volunteers.
Ballykeel Together Development Association and Ballykeel Moving Forward dug into their own reserves and have been working together to deliver food packs on the Ballykeel estate, with the support of funding from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Awards For All. Businesses such as local café Grafters, and TK Maxx, have been supporting the groups work with donations of food
Up the road in Ballee, the Community Association matched the funding received from MEABC to provide food parcels and kept the estate entertained with doorstep bingo. Harryville Men’s Sheds have been continuing to work on the Tullygarley allotments, part of a project with Raglan Community Development Renovation Society, enabling them to provide fresh veg supplies to their members.
All this has been achieved with the commitment and energy of volunteers. Hannah Bowyer from Ballymena CDO, who works with several community groups, said “It has been so encouraging and inspiring to see how volunteers have supported their community throughout one of the most challenging times we have had to face”. Hannah mentions that many volunteers have been bringing their energy to more than one organisation at a time, including Vicky Greer, who has been preparing food parcels, leaflet dropping and offering cleaning services across three different community groups, making a huge difference in south Ballymena.
Over in Portglenone the Bann Valley Community Group have been continuing a project creating safe pathways that started before the lockdown, with the help of plastic bag levy funding. When this work started the group had no idea how important it would become in providing safe places for people to get their exercise whilst observing social distancing requirements. Bann Valley Community Group have also initiated a community response team, collecting prescriptions, delivering groceries and litter picking.
Bann Valley Community Group making pathways suitable for social distancing
At the other side of the council area Whitehead Foodbank have delivered almost as many parcels since lockdown began as during the whole of the preceding year, receiving donations of food and money from supporters in the community. They have also been busy distributing food boxes from MEABC and helping the local SPAR fulfil their requests for deliveries to those self-isolating, delivering prescriptions and helping with necessary services. Jeni McAughey, secretary of the Storehouse, told us “This has been possible because we have so many volunteers, many of whom are working with us for the first time”.
Community groups have responded efficiently and creatively to the changing circumstances, adapting funding and resources to support the communities that rely on them. Volunteers have been crucial in this process and groups see the need for support continuing over the coming months as the financial implications of Corona become more obvious.
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