Offerton and Great Moor COVID-19 community group

Facebook group

Offerton and Great Moor Covid-19 community group is a Facebook group that was set up in March 2020 by Gemma Gorey to help those in that area who may be more at-risk or need an extra bit of help during the pandemic. Hannah Bowler, a key organiser of the group, said: “A few of us originally started the group to just check up on our neighbours… before long it was a Facebook group with over 700 members and over 100 volunteers willing to help out any way they could.” She explained that the main requests for help they get are things like prescription collections, dog walks, small emergency shops, and food bank requests.

young boy walking a small dog on a lead

Hannah, one of the group organisers

We have distributed leaflets with the group’s information on to nearly every house, flat, care home and assisted living in all 11 zones, which is over 400 streets, every single request for help has been fulfilled.

The team behind the community group have to be highly organised in order to deal with the amount of requests for help that come in. They have eight central coordinators who keep up with admin, record data, moderate the Facebook group, and offer general help and assistance. The 100+ volunteers are split by area location (zones), and each zone has a WhatsApp group for volunteers in that area. “We have distributed leaflets with the group’s information on to nearly every house, flat, care home and assisted living in all 11 zones, which is over 400 streets,” Hannah said, explaining the way that the group works. “We have a rota between the coordinators for manning the phones, where all support is directed to, either via phone, text or email. The person manning the phone sends out the request to the relevant zone WhatsApp group and we wait for a volunteer to offer to do the ‘job’. We then pair that volunteer with the person in need of help.”

The group applied for and received funding from Stockport Local Fund: Community Support to cover basic costs of small food shops, ink cartridges for printing, petrol, paper for printing, and phone bills for the mobile phones used. They also use the money to reimburse volunteers for a shop or prescription where the customer could not pay at that time.

“Every single request for help has been fulfilled,” Hannah said. “Volunteers are dog walking every single day for people isolating or shielding. People are accepting jobs outside of their zone when it’s the last resort (as we are trying to keep people as local as possible). We have put several calls out for emergency care packages for those unable to reach foodbanks and have been inundated with generosity.”

The group often help out picking up prescriptions for vulnerable people. “My prescription had been ready to pick up for over a week from Sainsbury’s,” said 79-year-old Mrs B who lives on her own in Offerton. “Helen (a volunteer) kindly brought the tablets to me with a lovely bunch of flowers. What a wonderful gesture and the flowers now are brightening my day! Thank you to you all. You are a lifeline in these terrible days.”

Mr P from Offerton had similar praises for the group. "Thank you so much for collecting my medication from Sainsbury's today. It was a big help to me, particularly as a person who suffers with extreme anxiety,” he said. “Your selfless work in the local community is invaluable. When I clap for the NHS on Thursday, I will also be thinking of you all.”

No job is too small for this dedicated group. 72-year-old Mrs J was self-isolating in her home in Offerton and contacted the group via a phone call to explain that she wanted to send a parcel to keep in touch with family but couldn’t get out to the post office. “A lovely lady took the parcel to the post office for me and, in addition, agreed to also take a parcel of craft sources for my other grandchildren, who live over an hour away from me,” Mrs J said. “She did it all in a safe and friendly way, which both relieved me of my problem and helped to cheer me at this difficult time. Thank you once more. You have helped to restore my faith in human nature.”