Inspiring - how Filton Covid-19 volunteer army rallied to help those in need

April 26 2020
Inspiring - how Filton Covid-19 volunteer army rallied to help those in need

The first step was to create a network of volunteers across Filton.

Read more here - some of the inspiring stories


It all began in mid March.

At this stage, the lockdown had not begun. In Filton, and across the country, people were beginning to take seriously the likelihood that Covid-19 was about to impose huge change on all our lives.

None of us really knew what it was going to be like, how it would affect us all and how long it might last. Schools were still opening – but we had already seen the signs with panic buying in the supermarkets.

In the background, Filton was preparing. Led by Debbie Teml of the FACE community and youth charity at Elm Park, a small group gathered (at safe distance) to plan a response.

They included two town councillors, representatives of South Glos, local schools, churches, Filtonvoice and other organisations.

Like most people, none of them knew what it was going to be like. But they were fairly certain the impact was going to be huge and those most affected would likely be the elderly, the vulnerable, the ill and those who live alone.

Questions – obvious now – included: “How will they get shopping/medicine?” “How will they get their pension?” “What about the impact on mental health?”

A task force was created. The first step was to create a network of volunteers across Filton. There was worry that some areas might have a lot of support and others nothing. We wanted to make sure there was a volunteer no more than a street away from every resident.

On social media we launched a map and a call for volunteers. Within days there were more than 100 people signed up and Filton was, more or less, totally covered. A Facebook group for the volunteers was set up too.

Filtonvoice, in an edition published before lockdown, published an emergency helpline number. Although door to door deliveries were now out of the question, copies were circulated to the most vulnerable.

It was also decided to use Filton News and Views and the FV website as main sources of community information, supported by South Glos website.

Behind the scenes, Debbie and her team were putting the plan in place.

They would field calls from vulnerable people. They also launched a community food store at the FACE HQ.

Donations have come from businesses, residents and a myriad of other sources.

Debbie said: “FACE was fortunate to have a funding bid already in place from the Lottery Community Fund, which was due to be starting a new community project tackling social isolation with local volunteers. This meant we were ready with an infrastructure to roll-out an immediate response!

“We launched the helpline for Filton residents, for 4 hours each day Mon-Friday (10am-12pm and 6.30-8.30pm). Referrals are being taken from Bromford Housing Association, the South Glos. Community Shielding Team, local GPs and surgeries, as well as residents directly contacting the helpline following them seeing the details publicised through Filton Voice (both in print and online), posters in local Town Council notice boards, on the Filton News & Views Facebook page, and a radio interview which I  gave on BBC Radio Bristol. Word of mouth is also spreading as residents tell their friends about the support they are receiving from us.

We have a community food store, which was originally planned to run as a ‘swap shop’ for residents to come and donate and take what they needed swapping items. Once the ‘lockdown’ was put in place on 23rd March this was then restricted to discourage people from leaving their homes to visit us. However, the fridge and store are still in place just within the FACE entrance, and donations are being used to fulfil food and toiletries deliveries to residents as needed. When we have fruit / veg or donated items that are reaching the end of their shelf-life we run a donations table outside the centre, usually on Fridays.“Food items, milk, and toiletries have been donated by many residents and also the Filton PCSO’s brought in some milk which was donated from the local Costa when they closed. Shield Road School donated some packed lunches during the first week, which all went out to local families in need of food. We also get items donated by ASDA and Tesco under the Fareshare scheme.

There are now 109 volunteers. These volunteers have all been invited to join a closed Facebook group, where advice and information regarding best practice and Public Health England guidelines are shared, as well as daily shopping shout-outs.

It is known that other residents are already helping their neighbours and family members in Filton with shopping and other tasks. This means this may only be a snapshot of what is happening as we can only accumulate and report here on those requests that have come into FACE directly.

89 individuals contacted the helpline within first few weeks (Some of these people have contacted multiple times but they are only counted once in this figure). The majority of these contacted the helpline by phone, however 4 have made first or only contact via a dedicated address.

39 of these are now individuals who are having on-going support with shopping, phone support calls, and prescription collections. Some of these are having food or welfare checks 2-3 times a week, or for some this is once weekly. 2 of these are residents just over the fringes of the Horfield border, however they did not get help when requested through the BS7 support group.

Debbie said: “Some of the volunteers were already known to FACE as active local community members, and parents of FACE members, but the majority are new contacts. Many of these are people who have been furloughed from their employers and now have time on their hands for volunteering. Amongst the volunteers there are teachers, NHS staff, carers, students, a prison officer and a police officer. Some of our volunteers are self-isolating themselves due to being aged over 70, but have offered to help as phone support volunteers to others.

“As requests come into the helpline they are allocated to a volunteer. In most cases this is the most local volunteer that lives in their street. When a resident wants shopping, we find a volunteer who is already going to a shop rather than asking people to make an extra trip to the shop. Most requests are fulfilled within the same day they are logged. All requests have been fulfilled within 24 hours.

“Some volunteers have chosen to add flowers, cards, or chocolates as a treat to the shopping they have bought, as a gift for those who they are supporting. This has been very gratefully received by the residents on receiving these.

"FACE realises that the people we are supporting will struggle to access money in the coming weeks as they may be shielding or self-isolating for up to 12 weeks. Many of the people we support are elderly or disabled and cannot leave the house to replenish their cash. FACE therefore launched a JustGiving donation page in order to fundraise for food and ongoing needs. This currently stands at £320 raised online, with another £270 coming into the office in cash donations. The JustGiving page is accessible through this link:”

FACE has now launched food boxes in order to try to reduce the amount of trips to the supermarkets volunteers have to make and to help residents who may be struggling for money in order that their money can go further.

These are being sold for £20-25. Goods are being sourced through paid Bookers deliveries to FACE, as well as community donations. 4 local residents who have had food parcels through the government scheme have found that they could not use all the products and have now donated food to FACE for inclusion in these boxes.  The actual cardboard boxes have kindly been donated by Bookers in order to transport the food parcels to residents.

Boxes can be purchased for a friend or neighbour and the FACE volunteer team will deliver them. People need to collect themselves if they are not self-isolating or shielding. The link to the food request form is here:

Alongside the helpline and volunteer coordination, FACE set up an Easter egg hunt in the Filton Community Garden (following consultation with the chair of Filton Community Garden and local PCSO Soandro) during ‘daily exercise time’, which has been very popular amongst residents, both young and older alike. Another short hunt in the community garden is planned for May!

FACE have received comments over the past 4 weeks ...

“This makes me so proud to live in Filton”

“You’re all angels, please thank everyone from the bottom of my heart”

“I can’t believe you’re all doing this; I can’t wait to have a party when this is all over to say thank you to you all!”

“Thank you so much, you are a life-line to the life I had before this awful situation”