A GROUP set up to look after elderly and vulnerable people during the pandemic has been boosted with a £3,000 grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

The Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund grant will fund staff time, IT support and food for Devizes COVID19, which has mobilised an army of more than 260 volunteers to deliver food parcels, collect prescriptions and check on the welfare of more than 500 people.

The group is part of the Devizes Church Partnership and Rev Keith Brindle, vicar of St James Church, said the money has been invaluable.

“The money is being used to enable us to deliver support for vulnerable people in Devizes. In the three weeks since we’ve been going, we’ve had well over 1,000 calls through to the call centre in the Town Hall for food deliveries, medication and essential errands and the grant we’ve had from Wiltshire Community Foundation has enabled that to happen.

“We are increasingly doing a lot of pastoral calls as well now, phoning up people to see how they are doing and see how they are doing anxiety-wise. We’ve connected to an additional 500 people to see if they are okay, particularly those who are living in difficult situations or living by themselves and are vulnerable to mental health issues.”

He paid tribute to the energy and commitment of the volunteers who have come forward. “We have about 260 volunteers who are on a weekly basis queuing up for food, checking up on people, doing errands. It has been a pretty impressive effort from Devizes to support their community.

“We’ve also had calls from people who are isolating but have said that as soon as they are well, they want to volunteer to give something back, it is incredible and a privilege to work alongside these people.”

He said it is most heartening to see so many young people stepping up to help. “We have had such a wide range of volunteers but also so many of them are incredibly young and they want to do something to support the elderly. There’s nothing about this generation that’s snowflake, when the call was made, they responded.”

A call centre at Devizes Town Hall has been received 100 calls a day. Rev Brindle said: “We couldn’t sustain the operation, particularly the call centre without the grant.”

The Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund has raised more than £260,000 and has already made £136,000 worth of grants to voluntary groups across Swindon and Wiltshire.