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Here to help: Meet the people who have stepped in during Thetford’s hour of need

PUBLISHED: 11:18 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:05 25 March 2020

Volunteers from the 'Thetford Covid 19 community support group' making care packages for people in the community. Photo: Paul Gordon

Volunteers from the 'Thetford Covid 19 community support group' making care packages for people in the community. Photo: Paul Gordon

Paul Gordon

Difficult times can often bring communities together and Thetford is one town which has shown just how much people care.

Sharon Thompson runs Meet-n-Eat at Pine Close Community Centre and facilitates the online support group 'Helping the vulnerable in Thetford. Photo: Georgia Coulson PhotographySharon Thompson runs Meet-n-Eat at Pine Close Community Centre and facilitates the online support group 'Helping the vulnerable in Thetford. Photo: Georgia Coulson Photography

Individuals, charities, local groups and businesses have been offering their services to make sure those who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus or working hard on the frontline are getting the support they need.

These are some of the people who have stepped in during Thetford’s hour of need.

Sharon Thompson is the organiser of Meet-n-Eat group at the Pine Close Community Centre, where she offers free warm meals every Thursday evening to those who need it most.

But since the outbreak of the coronavirus Ms Thompson has also become the facilitator of an online support group “Helping the vulnerable in Thetford” with more than 500 members, volunteers have been offering to deliver essential items from the shops or run errands such as collecting prescriptions, walking the dog, or simply making a friendly phone call for those who are unable to leave their homes.

Volunteers from the 'Thetford Covid 19 community support group' making care packages for people in the community. Photo: Paul GordonVolunteers from the 'Thetford Covid 19 community support group' making care packages for people in the community. Photo: Paul Gordon

So far, the group has helped around 50 people in and around the town and Ms Thompson said they have received hundreds of phone calls.

“It’s quite harrowing to be honest when you have people aged 70 to 80 sobbing down the phone because their families are so far away, they can’t get to them to check on them,” said Ms Thompson.

“And with a lot of services being stopped it’s leaving an awful lot of people with no support whatsoever and we are picking it up.

“I genuinely think it is a life-line and I think we are going to get even busier.

Paul Gordon handing over a care package in Thetford. Photo: Paul GordonPaul Gordon handing over a care package in Thetford. Photo: Paul Gordon

“But we have had great help from local businesses. They have been amazing with donations and we have had so many volunteers.”

Ms Thompson has also been putting together packed lunches for families who are struggling to feed their children while they are not in school.

Despite the lock down which could now restrict her volunteer’s movements, Ms Thompson has been in contact with Breckland Council to find a way to make sure the group’s work can continue.

MORE: Here to Help: Where to get help in Thetford during the coronavirus outbreak

Carla Barreto is a Thetford Town Council and helps to run her husband's charity, Inspire Focus, supporting young people in the town. Photo: Carla BarretoCarla Barreto is a Thetford Town Council and helps to run her husband's charity, Inspire Focus, supporting young people in the town. Photo: Carla Barreto

Paul Gordon has set up the “Thetford Covid 19 community support group”.

Mr Gordon said: “It’s a time when the community should pull together and help each other. As an individual, as a group of friends or an organisation, as long as you are doing your bit.

“So far we have helped around 15 people and we have 200 members in the group, who are either offering their services or asking us for assistance.”

On Monday, March 23, members of the group were also putting together care packages to deliver around the town in preparation for the lock down.

Mr Gordon added: “I feel passionately about this, I am proud of our country and this community. We all have a duty to help one another.”

But it isn’t just online support groups, as local charities and businesses have also been offering their services during this time.

From free mental health support from counsellors and online workouts from gym owners, to lesson plans from teachers while children are stuck at home.

Carla Barreto is a Thetford Town Councillor and she also helps to run her husband’s charity, Inspire Focus, which supports young people in the town and as part of that, the couple were also delivering food once a week to vulnerable families through the charity Fare Share.

But now Mrs Barreto and her husband, Joe Barreto, have opened up their services to anyone who needs it during this difficult time.

Mrs Barreto said: “We have found we have had more people asking for help.

“We had one request from a family recently who are housebound, the mother has a disability and her children have dietary requirements.

“It’s really upsetting to think that this family with small children and health issues would go without food. So we will go out and get what them what they need.”

Mrs Barreto has also been in contact with Sharon Thompson and her support group as they have been working together and sharing resources whenever they can.

She added: “If there is something that we have that other people need we pass it on, everyone is trying to help each other.

“We have a network of people working together to help the community get through this. It’s amazing to see.”

MORE: £10,000 donated to foodbanks to support vulnerable during coronavirus outbreak

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