Anthony Bernard: Community spirit is positive news

Exmouth Commmunity Larder foodbank parcels are made up in the Salvation Army hall

Exmouth Commmunity Larder foodbank parcels are made up in the Salvation Army hall - Credit: Archant

In his latest column, Anthony Bernard, of the Exmouth Community Larder, writes about how Exmouth as a community is pulling together

Volunteer offers of help flooded in at the beginning of this crisis.

The seven-year experience of the Exmouth Community Larder gave a foundation on which to build, but the support of the community quickly established an expanded solution which has kept up without a break, despite demand being three times more than previous years; November has started another 20 per cent higher yet.

Donations of supplies and cash came in from the whole locality, so that from the start of the crisis The Exmouth Community Larder has been able to deliver food to all our neighbours in need.

A major donation has been the time, freely given, by so many people within and outside The Larder - no-one gets any remuneration from The Larder.

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Space to work was made available at the Salvation Army hall facilitating this threefold expansion, with room for volunteers to socially distance.

Support for people in need has come from departments in East Devon District Council, from Citizens Advice, from health visitors, GPs and the mental health team and many others, often working with re-arranged patterns using phone and internet.

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The Larder also accepts requests and referrals from anyone who experiences, or can see, a need.

Needs and difficulties are as diverse as people themselves! For many, it is now the loss of a steady income and a stable environment because so much has been changed by the virus and plans to combat it.

In addition to food supplies, we all need to provide caring and compassionate support for people claiming necessary benefits, trying to stay connected to friends and family and staying positive.

The Larder is, therefore, reaching out to those that need food help to find out what extra support should be provided.

There are many who are not comfortable using the internet, or maybe do not have a reliable phone connection - many of whom were managing quite well until the virus upended their world!

We will try to connect them with helpful support.

The EDDC housing team has worked wonders in getting a roof for otherwise homeless people - to whom The Larder then provides supplies,

Sometimes we miss the vital contribution of people in regular jobs, who are nevertheless part of the community spirit, if not at the centre of the community.

Mental health is in the news - we are all struggling to some extent, but some much more than others.

The St John’s Court team works as best it can, but it is visible that people are not finding it easy to make the connection whether from practical problems or a reluctance to seek help. Be nice to your neighbours; you don’t know what stress they are under!

Embarrassment should never be a factor - if someone needs help, ask for it! The time to be embarrassed is when returned to some sort of normality and failing to give back help and support into the collective community - which is very simply ‘all of us together’!

East Devon, a spirited community!

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