From Facebook volunteers to forming new friendships

16th April 2021

A Facebook group set up to communicate coronavirus concerns and help each other during the first national lockdown helped bring the community together and is still providing support and friendship in the Bridgwater area.

Revd Simon Bale Vicar of the Athelney Benefice become a volunteer coordinator. At the busiest times he had more than 100 people to organise, matching those who needed help with those who were willing to provide it.

The Coronavirus Community Help Bridgwater (CCHB) Facebook group set up in March had, within a short space of time, gathered more than 3000 people who were prepared to volunteer to help their community in whatever way they could. It brought together people of all ages and backgrounds from churches across the Bridgwater area, community groups and individuals willing to do whatever was asked of them. At one-point Simon was coordinating around 150 volunteers.

“We ended working with lots of local agencies to provide food deliveries, medication deliveries, emotional support by chatting with people on their doorstep, dog walking for people who weren’t able to get out. It was very much responsive to the needs of people who phoned in to ask for help.”

Over the period from the first lockdown to Christmas, they provided more than 600 volunteer moments. The thing they didn’t encounter , Simon says were problems, he was astonished at how smoothly it all flowed, and describes the whole operation as ‘totally magnificent.’

“What’s been lovely is that people who volunteered have developed friendships with those they’ve been helping. It’s gone from the needs to the fellowship, so it has become a very powerful thing. It’s a wonderful thing that came out of such difficulty.”

“It was an ecumenical thing as well and although it’s not a Christian agency, what you see is that it has enabled people to live out their faith. It was done absolutely humbly before God.”

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