A MALMESBURY charity funded by a coronavirus appeal grant has celebrated delivering its 4,000th meal since the start of the pandemic.

Heals has been awarded £10,000 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund, which has now raised more than £1 million and has so far distributed almost £700,000 to more than 170 groups.

Heals chairman of trustees Gavin Grant said the charity, based in the High Street, has been working flat out to support the town with hot meals, shopping errands, prescription deliveries, activities for young people, befriending phone calls, debt advice and supplying laptops for low income families.

He said: “The grant support has been absolutely vital. Heals would not be in existence without the aid of the Wiltshire Community Foundation and therefore this work would not be happening.”

The group has been delivering hot meals twice a week to older people who have been shielding and to low income families throughout the pandemic. Trustee Karen Franklin said at its height, there were 120 meals going out on a Wednesday and Friday. “Now we are down to around 60, there is pizza on Wednesday and fish and chips on Friday. The people who get them, love them,” she said.

Mr Grant said: “The meals have been a big challenge. Owners Dave and Nicola Moody at The Red Bull have been providing them at cost price, they have been absolutely fantastic. Our foodbank has not been overwhelmed and I think that is in part to do with the meals. It has allowed the foodbank to work on a broader basis covering places like Royal Wootton Bassett and Cricklade.”

The group was also supported earlier in the pandemic by The Calcot Manor Hotel and Spa. “The hotel was completely shut down but they didn’t furlough ten of their chefs so they could produce meals for us and others. The owners didn’t want to be acknowledged, they just said to thank Richard Davies the executive chef and his team,” said Mr Grant.

More than 40 households have been given refurbished laptops. Mr Grant said: “We have been collecting donated laptops and upgrading them for young people who didn’t have access to the internet other than through mobile phones, to do their schoolwork. “We have been helped by IT experts at Atema in Malmesbury who have installed Windows 10 and we have also connected some families to the internet.

“We had identified low income families through our own ring rounds at the start of the pandemic, but we have also been working with the local schools. We have now extended this to include older isolated people we have come across through our befriending work. We have one 94-year-old lady writing her memoirs and another who is blogging.”

“Without the support of the Wiltshire Community Foundation we couldn’t have done this. One of my big worries right at the beginning was not only how are we going to respond but actually will Heals survive.

“We are a very small charity and live hand to mouth. We had lost all of our underpinning fundraising activities and a lot of the community organisations that would grant us aid have lost out too. The bonfire was washed out last year, the carnival was cancelled, the last three major fundraisers were cancelled and we had a film showing of Ken Loach’s Sorry I Missed You that was cancelled and St Aldhelm’s Fair became virtual, so we could see this was going to be a real battle for survival for us. The foundation has been a huge support.”

To find out more about Heals’ services and its summer activity programme go to healsmalmesbury.co.uk.

Fiona Oliver, the community foundation’s interim co-chief executive, said: “The story of brilliant community groups suffering a devastating drop in income at exactly the time they are being asked to meet rising demand for their help is one we’ve heard right across the county. We are so pleased to be able to fund this kind of work and to see it having such a dynamic impact on people.”

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.