“We were able to hit the ground running because of what we were already doing, “said Graham Webb, chair of Dartmouth Community Chest (DCC) to BBC Radio Devon as he described the community’s response to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Weekly open access Friday hubs
What they were already doing were weekly open access Friday hubs for the whole Dartmouth and Townstal community including outlying villages. Jointly run by DCC and Townstal Community Partnership, the hubs provided hot meals, cakes, a place to meet up, chat and informal, easy access to services and advice.
“We’ve gone from 30, or maybe 40 meals once a week to at our peak to over 200 a day during March and April. All done by volunteers. The people who have been doing this work have been incredible,” he told Janet Kipling BBC Radio Devon, on Thursday, June 4.
Even though lockdown rules have been eased, meals are still an issue (down to 120 meals a day now, and 60-70 food parcels), but it is the need for another type of support that Graham was highlighting.
“At the beginning, it was a bit of a novelty and they were finding ways of amusing themselves and their children and getting things done in the house and the garden. But as time’s worn on people are starting to feel caged and finding it difficult to fill their days and there’s a lot of poverty-related mental stress as well, which is a real thing in this community.
“Poor mental health is preventable. If people can get access to the right help when they need it.”
Graham highlighted the work going on in the town, including that of Dartmouth Cool.
“Trying to keep those connections going is very important,” he said, “and it’s what we do at the hub. “Peer support is so important to help people and to support their mental health and to stop us all going bananas.”
And that awareness and support is another example of communities themselves being able to respond, hitting the ground running and creating a whole community of carers.