Parish responds with CARE to pandemic
More than 100 people have signed up to volunteer for a church-run project to help those in need during the coronavirus lockdown. From making up food parcels to keeping in touch with people over the phone, an army of helpers has come forward to help the CARE project, set up in response to the pandemic by one group of churches in south-east Wales.
CARE – which stands for Church Assistance Request in an Emergency Project – wasput together in less than a week in order to be running as soon as the lock-in began on March 23. It offers five key services: food parcels, click-and-collect shopping deliveries, prescription delivery, befriending and listening over the telephone, and pastoral and spiritual care from the Vicar.
Uptake was immediate, with 224 calls received in the first week and 70 food parcels made up and delivered. During that time 100 volunteers were recruited from across the churches and the wider community of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry. Demand has continued to increase and CARE is now an official partner of Caerphilly County Council, fulfilling some of its demand from residents for extra care.
The project is coordinated by the Rector and Vicar, the Revd Dean Aaron Roberts. He says, “We felt that we needed to play our part in the response effort to ensure that people are looked after, by being proactive in alleviating need in our communities.
“Our volunteers have been fantastic – they all have incredible skills and willingness to help. In particular, young people between the ages of 17-25 make up a good proportion of those stepping up to serve.”
The volunteers’ jobs are varied. They include answering phone calls remotely from home, processing the requests through an online support system, being a delivery driver, working in the food hub at St Thomas’ Church, Trethomas and making up the parcels.
“Every day we are receiving an increasing number of calls from people in our communities who are having a really tough time, are isolated, frail, or economically disadvantaged,” says Dean. “We are taking on new service users daily, and there are times where it is hard to keep up with demand.
“There are lots of people who are struggling, but we are on hand to help in whatever way we can. Isolation isn’t in our genes – we’re made for relationship and that comes to bear in how some are not abiding by the Government guidelines. We’re encouraging people not to put themselves or others at risk, by staying in, so that we as key workers can provide services to them as and when they need them.
“It’s certainly true that the Coronavirus outbreak has affected us all, without exception. During these days, the Church has an amazing opportunity to be salt and light in the midst of the darkness by proclaiming the gospel afresh to this generation in word and deed.”
Leading CARE with Dean are Diane Brierley, the treasurer, her daughter Lissie, who coordinates the volunteers, Gillian Connolly, in charge of policy and procedure, and her daughter Siân, in charge of sourcing food, supplies and finding out about grants.
“Our communities have been very supportive,” says Dean. “We have supplies and money coming in, with local businesses supporting us such as Glanmor’s, Machen Stores, Cadwaladers Ice Cream, a local cheese company, as well as larger businesses and organisations such as Co-op, FareShare Cymru, and the big supermarkets.”
Grants have been forthcoming too, including from Michaelston-y-Fedw Internet Company and the Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen Community Council. Applications are in with several charitable trusts for larger grants.
“We fully envision the project to continue once we are back to normal. We have always tried things to serve the community, but this has really focussed our attention on the practical side of the gospel. We only hope that this ministry will continue to grow and expand as time goes on.
“As we work in these times, facing unprecedented challenge, difficulty and trial, I lean on the strength that comes from knowing Jesus and that he has called us by name, that we are his, and that he is with us. My prayer is that as we minister to those in need, the unique, everlasting love of God will come through to those we serve.
To find out more: https://bmmr.church/coronavirus
To donate and help the work: Text CORONAVIRUS and your amount to 70085
or go to https://bmmr.church/donate