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Coronavirus Community Careline nears sixth full week in operation

8 May 2020

Jim Steele

The Stevenage Football Club and Stevenage FC Foundation Coronavirus Community Careline is coming towards the conclusion of its sixth full week in operation…

Since the Coronavirus Pandemic sent the world into lockdown, the Football Club has switched its focus from Football to Community Care, using its staff, volunteers and players to help serve the Stevenage community.

To date, the Sandwich Service aspect of the Careline has delivered over 5,500 individual sandwiches to the community and to Lister Hospital staff.

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Jamie Drackford, who normally operates the matchday PA, has been one of many volunteers delivering sandwiches on a weekly basis and he said, “Helping deliver the sandwiches has been one of the best things I've had the pleasure of doing with the club. Week by week my runs have been getting longer because the people I’ve been delivering to have wanted to chat and you build relationships with these people. That’s been the most important thing I’ve learnt. Contact with people is taken for granted. I am very proud to have said I have helped.”

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The Community Errands service has been mainly collecting/delivering prescriptions in addition to picking up and dropping off food bank donations and to date, 170 prescriptions and 70 food bank donations have been administered.

Local pharmacies, surgeries and housing associations have been relying on the service, pointing vulnerable people to the Careline in-order to safely receive their medication.

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One of the many Stevenage residents who has been using the service said it is a life-line to her and many others who are self-isolating.

“I have been in lockdown since 22nd of March as I have underlying health issues which mean that I have to stay at home. I put my health first and I have a young daughter, so I can’t ask her to go out because if something happens to me, then nobody will be able to look after her. I have to be really careful during this time, which is why your service is such a huge help for us. I have never asked anybody to do anything for me before, so I felt bad, but it is incredibly useful as I really rely on my prescriptions so I can’t thank the football club enough.”

The Friendly Chat service has been available to the local community for any concerns, advice or just for somebody to talk to during these challenging times.

Stevenage FC Foundation Health and Wellbeing Manager Hannah Marsh has been leading the service and she says it has proven to be a valuable outlet for people. “With over 250 phone calls in the first six weeks, there has shown to be definite need for this bespoke service. Calls have ranged from people simply wanting advice to those feeling isolated and wanting a chat, to support for people who have sadly lost love ones during the crisis. I speak regularly with many of our callers, checking in on a weekly basis to see how they are and hearing that this is often the highlight of their week demonstrates the importance of the service."

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Stevenage Chairman Phil Wallace has been monitoring the services daily along with CEO Alex Tunbridge. He said "There are, quite rightly, many clubs and organisations helping the communities around the country now and long may that continue. We were one of the very first to mobilise and we’ve managed to create a slick, efficient, valuable service that helps improve the quality of life in our community. Every single one of our volunteers, which includes a great number of our players, should be rightly proud of the contribution they’ve provided.

"Together we’ve made a real difference. No fuss, no delays, no excuses – together we’ve all just got on and made it happen. I’m immensely proud of our staff and volunteers – we’ve collectively been a shining light at a time when despair and anxiety gripped the nation. This virus will be with us for a good while yet, but we’ll continue to be there for our community."

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Finally, the Club and Foundation would like to confirm its appreciation to the people of the town and its fans for the kind messages that have been sent and the support that has been received. Thanks to the superb Stevenage public, for example, the Club raised over £8,300 to help continue funding for the provision of daily sandwiches to local residents and the Lister Hospital for the foreseeable future.

The Careline reopens on Monday 11th May from 10am-4pm, when staff will be ready to take calls on 01438 222222.

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