Jodi Bradbury co-ordinator of Winthorpe Community Partnership is not long out of her first self-isolation when we catch up with her. The inconvenience and frustration is tempered with the knowledge that she quickly and efficiently contacted everyone she needed to. And that the community is supporting itself in this prolonged crisis. Even during these difficult times, Winnie’s works.
It took several years of determination by Jodi and WCP to overcome many barriers to raise the £32k needed to refurbish a disused chapel plus three weeks of redecoration by many community volunteers to transform the redundant space into Winnie’s offering a whole range of community-led activities for all ages. It had been building up a head of steam, when in March the lockdown kicked in. And while the hub has been hindered in what it can do, it’s still the focus of community support and is looking to the future as best it can.
Once Jodi heard that a person who had been at Winnie’s had tested positive for Covid-19, she followed their protocol and contacted everyone who had been there. This was in between lockdown 1 and lockdown 2.
“But then we got conflicting advice and we were told we didn’t have to self-isolate,” she tells us over Zoom. The info was from the local council.
“Me and the lady who got Covid were the only ones who checked in on the app. Everyone else had done it on paper. I was just about to leave the house on the advice that I could, and I got a message through on the track and trace on my phone to say I had to self isolate.”
In that situation, the council told her, the app advice takes over, and Jodi stayed in.
“It was worse than lockdown 1,” she says. (She even painted her bathroom, she admits.)
The confusing messages were reflected in the questions she got from members of the community. Questions combined with fear. A man was at her door at 8am on a Sunday, because he’d been with her two weeks previously, asking about isolating. And a woman with a shop closed down her whole volunteering operation, because the son of one of her volunteers had visited Winnie’s.
“The panic from people has surprised me,” says Jodi. “The messages and calls I was getting off local people, there was hardly any understanding of Covid or the Government’s advice.”
The team at Winnie’s had done everything they should have done – social distancing, wearing masks and visors, and diligent sanitising – but the pandemic has been hard for them.
“We’ve lost volunteers because a lot are in the old age group,” says Jodi. And money-wise they are struggling with running costs mounting up while they were unable to open.
But their groups have been strong with the members of lunch club visiting whenever they could.
“They love it,” says Jodi. “It gets them out seeing people; talking. Even with having to sit on separate tables – they used to sit down on a big table together. Now they can’t do that, but we’ve managed to do it so they were close enough so they could still talk.”
Now with a second lockdown the lunch club situation may have changed, but the connections haven’t.
“They are really close. They’ve built up such friendships now that they see each other outside of the lunch club they help each other out. It’s really nice.”
During lockdown, everybody in the community helped each other.
“I know that’s good, because that’s what we wanted the community to do. Everybody was there for each other. But I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I signed up to volunteer. I became an NHS responder and started going out picking up prescriptions, checking up and chatting with people,” says Jodi. She was also able to stay in touch with members of the highly popular lunch club.
She found that providing that human connection was important.
“There was definitely a lot of loneliness,” says Jodi. “But there was great support in Winthorpe from the neighbours. People were shopping for each other and checking in on each other. And from what I’ve seen everybody got what they needed.”
Mental health has always been a big issue, even more so now.
“The services are not allowed to meet on a one-to-one basis. It’s phone calls or video calls. Some people don’t deal with things that way. It doesn’t work for them. But they haven’t got another option,” she says. Jodi was in discussions with someone who works for the mental health service in Skegness about setting up a men’s mental health group.
But Winnie’s is still planning for the future and is looking to evolve with the changing need the community faces. Those plans include a uniform bank and informal IT support. And the day we chatted, before lockdown 2, the exercise group for the over 50s had returned, delivering fitness, food and friendship. That’s had to change during the restrictions, but the essential element of having a chat was being reinstated.
“One thing we’ve always been is flexible because we’re community-led,” says Jodi. “It’s always been a case of speaking to people, they tell us what they’re looking for and we try to act on it with them.”
Even with the restrictions, lockdown, and isolation Jodi is optimistic.
“We’ve got no choice,” she says. “There’s nothing we can do about it, and we do what we can. We’re all in the same boat, and we’ll take it as it comes.”