A VILLAGE community shop is one of more than 100 groups across Swindon and Wiltshire have now been helped to tackle the effects of the pandemic with grants from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

Its coronavirus Response Fund has now raised more than £600,000 and distributed more than £350,000 since it launched in March.

Among the latest grant recipients is the Minety Community Shop, which was launched from scratch in just two weeks at the start of the crisis.

Ironically, people in the remote village, which has almost 25 per cent of its population over 65 and is seven miles from the nearest supermarket, have been fundraising and campaigning for a shop for two years.

It has received £1,200 from the fund.

Committee member Val Essam said: “Public transport is virtually non-existent and also quite a lot of people are isolating who are not easily able to get out to the shops. When people began shielding, we trialled having a table outside the school and then the village hall committee offered us the use of the committee room.”

The shop is open every weekday from 2pm to 5pm and has been so popular with villagers that it could become permanent.

Mrs Essen said: “The committee who were involved in the set-up did an amazing job to get it all in place and we were very appreciative of the village hall being so supportive and continuing to be.

“Having done what we’ve done and seen what is possible they are very much open to working with us. Once the lockdown is over, they will allow us to continue working there for a year at a nominal rent, which will give us all breathing space to see what might be possible.

“The grant has been a huge help with salary, travelling expenses and essential equipment. It has helped us get established and not dig into our hard-won capital that will be going toward the eventual premises.”

Another beneficiary has been community mentoring group Kandu Arts in Chippenham, which has used its £3,000 grant to maintain contact with young people who would otherwise be receiving regular face to face contact from their key workers.

Kandu works with social services, community groups and education teams across the county to support young people who might be struggling at school or in their community with a range of difficulties. “Some because they have emotional or behavioural difficulties, health and mental health difficulties, or are in a difficult family situation or have additional learning needs,” said founder Ed Deedigan.

The group also supports young carers, looked after children and people suffering from rural isolation.

Director Donna Lee said: “During term time we provide alternative provision, but we also run after school clubs and football engagement projects in the evenings and in holidays for young people.

“When the coronavirus happened, we had to continue the contact with young people with daily contact by phone and helping them with online learning. Also, they have access to their key workers by phone.

“We have also done that through the Easter holidays and will do so in the May holiday, the Wiltshire Community Foundation grant has helped us to carry on through the holidays and weekends and evenings.”

Mrs Oliver said: “We are so incredibly grateful to individual donors, trusts and companies, as well as the National Emergencies Trust, who have given to the fund. We are working flat out to get the money to the groups who need it.

“We still desperately need more donations though because the grant applications are still coming in.”

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.