How Norfolk and Waveney's town of the year has responded to Covid

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Halesworth as a town has come together during difficult times. - Credit: Archant

The community spirit of towns and villages across Norfolk and Suffolk is one of the few positives to come out of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the town of Halesworth in Suffolk where residents have truly rallied together to create a positive difference.

From the setting up of the town's community larder to a community bus service put on to help the vulnerable get to their vaccination appointments, it has much to celebrate during what have been dark and bleak times for many.

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Aerial view of Halesworth. - Credit: Mike Page

Their efforts were rewarded during the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards 2020 run by the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, where Halesworth won town/village of the year.

The town's community larder was set up by Reverend Jane Held, Assistant Curate at Blyth Valley Team Ministry and Cluster which runs 14 churches in the local area.

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Volunteers working at Halesworth's community larder. - Credit: Revd Jane Held

"The larder was set up during the first lockdown as a pragmatic response to help those who were not eligible for the food bank," she said.


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"The larder acts like a shop located in the town's church hall and is open to everyone to use with no questions asked.

"We rely upon donations from people which then allow those who are more vulnerable to come and collect what they need.

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"We've had examples of people coming in to pick up ingredients and coming back to donate food such as cakes, so it works on a recycling and exchange basis."

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Food being delivered on bikes for Halesworth's community larder. - Credit: Revd Jane Held

Revd Held added that the brilliant team of volunteers are a huge part of what makes the community larder work.

"It feels like a social part of the town now," Revd Held said.

"It's a community endeavour between everyone, residents, the church, the council and the volunteer centre.

"It really has brought out the best in people."

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Treats being delivered to residents in Halesworth by Halesworth Volunteer Centre. - Credit: Emma Healey

Emma Healey is Centre Manager at Halesworth Volunteer Centre which is the support hub for Halesworth's community response to the pandemic.

Emma said: "We are currently shopping for 44 households in Halesworth and the surrounding rural communities. 

"These households include elderly people who have been isolating since March or whose health has declined meaning that, sadly, they can no longer shop independently. 

"We support our local pharmacies and dispensaries by picking up and delivering medication. 

"We recently completed our 3,500th delivery of food or medication. 

"We are also providing telephone support to over 60 people who are living alone, our 'friendly voices at the end of the phone' just chat, check up on people's health and well-being and make sure that people are not finding the latest lockdown too isolating and overwhelming."

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Sweets and treats being delivered by Halesworth Volunteer Centre - Credit: Emma Healey

Over the Christmas period, Halesworth Volunteer Centre also delivered Christmas lunches as well as sherries and nibbles to those who are vulnerable.

It is the needs of the vulnerable who are placed at the heart of the town's response to the pandemic.

Julia Howell runs Halesworth Area Community Transport, a service helping to transport those with accessibility issues to get their Covid jabs for free.

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A community bus, run by Halesworth Area Community Transport (HACT), is being used to transport the vulnerable to get their vaccines. - Credit: Julia Howell

The bus service runs three times a day and takes five people on a 16-seater bus, all socially distanced.

Mrs Howell said: "It started out through the shopping runs we were doing for those shielding in the town during the first lockdown.

"Since the vaccine has been approved we have run hundreds of the elderly to get their jabs in Reydon.

"The problem is there is no public transport to Reydon and without this service, some of them wouldn't get their jabs.

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The residents love it. - Credit: Julia Howell

"The whole operation is volunteer led and all organisations across the town have worked together during this pandemic. it is a collaborative effort."

Halesworth Town Council leader David Wollwebber praised the town's approach to dealing with the pandemic.

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David Wollwebber, Chair of Halesworth Town Council. - Credit: Halesworth Town Council

"It has been a pleasure to see the town come together and help those who are most vulnerable.

"The pandemic has produced economic and social uncertainty and whilst rates are relatively low here in Halesworth, the anxiety can be felt.

"I'm proud to say that everyone pulling together will provide a better future for our town."

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