Harpenden councillor on how the town’s volunteer service started and exceeded expectations

Harpenden Cares organisers leading by example with virtual meetings while volunteering for the vulne

Harpenden Cares organisers leading by example with virtual meetings while volunteering for the vulnerable in the community. Picture: Mary Maynard - Credit: Archant

Churches, charities and hundreds of volunteers have pulled together to create Harpenden Cares, the one-stop-shop for those in need during the coronavirus crisis.

Councillor Mary Maynard got the ball rolling after seeing firsthand how the situation unfolded in Italy while on holiday in the south of the country at the start of March.

Mary told the Herts Ad: “There was no issue when we arrived, but as the week went on I was picking up on the panic that was happening in other parts of the country, and then it started happening in Rome.

“I noticed at the beginning of the week that the coffee shops and restaurants were still full – the tourist areas were quite empty, but a lot of locals were still out and about.

“As the week went on I could see people were starting to stay home.

“We said ‘maybe we should get on a flight and get out of here while we still can’. We left Italy, and soon after they announced the lockdown.”

When leaving the airport in Italy, Mary said many were keeping a distance from others – in stark contrast to what she found when arriving back to Luton airport.

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“People were all crowding together – before I left I knew there was a case in Harpeden, and I thought ‘why aren’t people taking this more seriously’, I couldn’t believe it,” she continued.

Although Mary hadn’t visited one of the high risk areas of Italy at the time, she opted to self isolate for a week, just to be safe.

While isolating, she decided to start getting in touch with Harpenden charities and organisations to start working on a positive response to the impending outbreak.

Mary added: “I was sat at home watching it unfold on the news. It’s spreading, and I thought we’re going to do have do something.

“That’s when I started to call around all the charities and ask if they’d like to all band together into a bigger group.

“The response was amazing, everyone has been so brilliant. It’s all about the volunteers and people have been working around the clock.” Harpenden Cares runs in the same style as a call centre, so those needing its services can call and will be referred to a volunteer.

It’s services include a befriending service, delivering essentials to vulnerable and/or isolated people and more. For more, visit harpenden.gov.uk/harpendencares.

Call 01582 460457 between 10am and 2pm, Monday to Friday.

If you have benefitted from the services of Harpenden Cares or similar organisations, and want to share, let us know at hertsad@archant.co.uk.