We have asked community organisations to provide us with information and stories so we can highlight the brilliant work that volunteers are doing throughout Wakefield District during the pandemic.

Castleford Heritage Trust (CHT)

Words from CHT:

Castleford Heritage Trust is acting as the community support hub for Castleford. We have around 50 volunteers on our volunteer responder list and most of our referrals are for shopping and prescription collections.

Many of our own volunteers are self-isolating, but one in particular has been doing an incredible job milling and selling flour at our base, Queen’s Mill. Since the lockdown began there has been a shortage of flour.

Queen’s Mill still produces our own stoneground flour on a small scale. Our volunteer miller, Dave Weatherson has single handedly achieved the following:

  • 1,267 Bags filled, weighed and sealed with a glue gun
  • £2,508.50 in sales
  • 2 tonnes of wheat milled
  • 2 tonnes of flour produced.

We have supplied local farm shops and small independent stores, as well as selling to the general public.

Dave sets out his stall on the mill forecourt and has been selling up to 40 to 50 bags per day. He has milled and bagged all the flour himself.

Volunteer spotlight: Dave Weatherson

I came to Queens Mill, owned by Castleford Heritage Trust, after seeing an article on Facebook about renovating the waterwheel. I was shown round the Mill and told they had just got the grind stones working so they could make flour but did not have anybody with food hygiene qualifications. I told them they did now as I have them. That is how I became the miller at Queens Mill, the largest stoneground flour mill in the world. I had just gone through a very dark time in my life and this was something that would keep me occupied and keep my mind off that bad place I was in. Over the last 5 years I have helped renovate the buildings and even help build the wonderful boathouse that we now have at the mill. I have also had to learn how to mill flour and all about stone grinding. For the first few years we produced flour as and when needed. A tonne of wheat lasted us about 3 years. Then came the Coronavirus and panic buying. Luckily we had a tonne of wheat on order and we soon realised that would not last long so ordered two more tonnes. Over the last few weeks I have milled in the morning and in the afternoon stood outside the mill with a table and a banner advertising our flour and sold it to the public. I have milled flour every day since lockdown and sold a whopping £2,500 of flour to our community. The money goes back into the renovation of the mill, and the community get the flour that they can not get at the supermarkets.

I joke about the fact that I took early retirement and now I am working a 40 hour week as a volunteer and not getting paid. I would not have it any other way. I don't like sitting around doing nothing, I like to keep busy. This last few weeks has been hectic but I have enjoyed every minute of it. I am keeping busy, I am helping to raise funds for the Mill and I am helping the community in providing flour in a time of a shortage. Even with social distancing I still manage to have a chat with the customers and provide them with advice on what can be made with our flour. I am very passionate about the mill and love to tell people about its history.

Eastmoor Community Project

Volunteer spotlight: Mick

I have been self-employed for 15 years, running the Famous Fives, five a side football league. This had to stop on 15 March due to Coronavirus. I began looking for opportunities to keep busy. I just wanted to help in these exceptional times and think that if you can do your bit, you should.

I started volunteering for Eastmoor Community Project just as they were beginning to organise delivery of leaflets to each household. The estate had been mapped into sections and volunteers and staff took an area each, until the whole estate had information on the services provided at the Centre.

From then on, each day has been different, doing a bit of everything from food parcels, shopping, medication deliveries, newspapers… and more. The community have been brilliant and we have been getting great feedback from those who are struggling, whether they are older people with no confidence and lonely, making their stay at home easier with the shopping they are used to having, or those who just have nothing at all. Everyone we support is really appreciative; just a weekend newspaper delivery with the week ahead TV guide can make all the difference to someone on their own.

So many people with such a variety of needs have been supported by this service. I also deliver for St. Catherine’s Church when needed.

I thought it would be a lot tougher than it has been. The biggest challenge for me was, after working on my own for 15 years, becoming part of a team but it’s been brilliant. It was important to be working with a team and supporting them to do what we are doing now, not what they have done for many years, we were all learning together.

Personally, I have to look to my future and not knowing when I will return to my business, being a part of something that has not been done from the community centre before, has been a great learning experience and I would recommend it to anyone.

….. and the scones are amazing, call in for one when all this is over.

Lightwaves/Next Generation Leisure and Community Centre

Volunteer spotlight: Catherine

Words from the Centre:

As a trade unionist, Catherine had heard of the shortages of scrubs from Health Union colleagues through Trades Council, especially in Mid Yorks where they were short by 2500 sets of scrubs.

An internet search found patterns and Catherine made several sets of scrubs for Pinderfields Hospital from fabric she had at home – curtains, bedding... When she delivered 10 sets of scrubs to Pinderfields, the volunteer team highlighted again the extent of the shortage.

As Catherine is a National Education Union Officer and Secretary of the Wakefield and District Trades Council, she knew several Union conferences had been cancelled, so Union branches had a little spare money set aside to support conference attendances.So Catherine asked Trades Council and her union if they would fund the purchase of fabric to make more scrubs – they agreed.

At the same time, Catherine reached out to other women through the Wakefield Covid-19 Support Group on Facebook and found other women who had been making scrubs and masks. A day or two of networking brought several groups together across the District, and Catherine’s role switched from making scrubs to co-ordinating, measuring and cutting fabric, and distributing material to be made up.

With around 50 women working together (and several men) more unions contributed, anxious to protect their members in the health services. A further 3 purchases were made from warehouses in Wakefield, Dewsbury and from Bombay Stores in Bradford.

So far, the group have donated 34 sets in week 1, 40 in week 2, 50 in week 3 and more to follow.This has been a total of 700m of fabric and many kilometres of thread!

To manage this volume of fabric, Catherine asked to use a meeting room at Lightwaves where tables could be put together to make a large cutting table, and where volunteer drivers who were supporting the food bank could also support the scrub making volunteers. Volunteers also came in to support the cutting and measuring, and to support the administration.

What was exceptional about this volunteer effort?

1. The volunteer group initiated in 48 hours – extremely quickly

2. The volunteer group of over 50 people equipped with home sewing machines included a significant number of retired women, many of whom are socially distancing, many of whom are over 70, many of whom are benefiting from making genuinely useful contributions and being part of a group

3. The volunteer group is also drawing in women from minority communities who are in multi-generation households, thereby allowing them to contribute without risking the health of older people shielding in the household

4. The partnership between trade unions and community volunteers is genuinely new and innovative, being centred around society’s need to have a functioning NHS

These little gains in the midst of a health crisis, rapidly becoming a political and economic crisis, must be recognised, recorded and built on – they are what will bring society through.

Huge thanks go out to Wakefield NEU, two UNISON branches, the RMT and Trades Council, along with Lightwaves and to Jo from Wrenthorpe Community Association.

Kinsley & Fitzwilliam Centre

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Kinsley & Fitzwilliam Centre has transformed their centre into a Community Hub. Their Hall, which is usually used for sports activities, is now a place where the public can collect food, and also a place to store food for the food parcels that the centre is delivering to those in need.

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, Kinsley & Fitzwilliam centre has engaged over 30 volunteers who assist with the collection of food donations, pack bags ready for delivery, transport food parcels to residents houses as well as collecting prescriptions, dog walking & befriending those who are isolated and just want a friendly chat. Since the Centre started receiving donations of food, they have managed to source enough food to deliver over 150 food parcels to residents, which is a great achievement as they started from nothing. Plus through FareShare, Kinsley & Fitzwilliam has given out to residents the equivalent of 1,702 meals (according to the Impact on their FareShare account).

One resident who received support through the volunteers at Kinsley & Fitzwilliam, said: “Can I just say a big BIG thank you for the parcels today, you have really helped and are very much appreciated, thank you again, the fruits have been enjoyed with the children’s dinner today”.

Senior Citizens Support Group

The Covid-19 crisis and restrictions instantly curtailed the normal activities of the Senior Citizens Support Group, but Chairman Alan and the Trustees were very quick to respond to the changed circumstances and the need for the co-ordination of efforts to support the older members of the community. Working with the active support of WMDC and Nova, they quickly established a Community Hub in the Town Hall of Horbury, providing a 24 hour helpline; recruiting 75 volunteer helpers; and offering support to the vulnerable in the form of a shopping and delivery service; prescription collection and deliveries; meal deliveries; and telephone befrienders to call and hold conversations with people who would be otherwise totally isolated. This is proving invaluable and the reach is now over 400 elderly members being contacted on a weekly basis. The volunteers are from a wide range of backgrounds with a varied skill set and the hub operates on the maxim of meeting individual needs. Alan, said: "I am really pleased that this is a total team effort that has made the Community Hub very effective, but others recognise that our commitment and determination is what holds it together and ensures that the vulnerable people of the area are supported".

SCSG made the decision early on to use the skills of a member with assisting in setting up systems by which shopping can be paid for at the time of purchase. All local shops, and supermarkets have created a process where they can have click, pay and collect and deliver to customer, some supermarkets have a direct number for SCSG to contact them in cases of real emergencies. Cafes and caterers have been very supportive in meeting the needs of the community and there is an excellent relationship established with Marie Moore who runs the Resource Food Bank based at South Ossett Church Community Centre.

The Helpline for the Hub is 01924 565859 and it is manned from 8am to 5pm Monday - Friday with an answering machine operating outside those hours. The Hub provides support for the whole of Horbury, Ossett, Middlestown, Netherton and most of Sitlington, and parts of Lupset. SCSG has also donated some of its Morrison’s food pack to local ILS schemes like Croftlands in Ossett.

St George's Community Centre

St George's say they have been very lucky having such a dedicated team of volunteers helping during this crisis. The centre had 16 volunteers making up food parcels, food shopping, medication pick up, deliveries and telephone befriending last week. This enables St George's to reach out to the most vulnerable in their community, many of them thankful for our support.

The centre has had thank you notes and messages on their social media expressing their gratitude during this time. They have started rainbow letters and their volunteer Usha has been helping collate them and send them out with the food deliveries.

St George's say they really could not have done this without the time, effort and energy their amazing volunteers have given. "We can’t thank them enough!".

They asked a couple of volunteers why they help and here are some of their responses:

Karen: “ I have found volunteering a good focus for me as I am unable to work. I have been made very welcome by all the St George’s family it’s good to hear from people who get support that what we are doing is making a difference at this difficult time”.

Charlie: ”I have been furloughed and I am enjoying helping others”.