Bringing food and smiles to two sisters - how a Red Cross volunteer made a difference
Jan was worried about her sister, Penny, recovering alone during lockdown. Then a Red Cross volunteer brought both food and independence to Penny’s doorstep
Many of us have found the nationwide lockdown stressful and lonely. But it has been even harder for those concerned about the health and wellbeing of isolated loved ones.
When Jan’s sister Penny fell and broke her pelvis in March, just a few weeks before the lockdown was announced, Jan became desperately worried as to how Penny would cope on her own.
“Penny’s not on the internet but I am, and where she lives the supermarkets had no delivery slots for three weeks,” explained Jan, who lives an hour away from Penny, in Sussex. “I tried everything I could think of but couldn’t get hold of anything. I was beside myself that I couldn’t help her – I didn’t know where to turn."
Penny, who has lived alone since being widowed seven years ago, is normally active and independent. “I like shopping and preparing my own food,” said Penny. “It was very worrying not to be able to feed myself. A couple of neighbours picked up some things to keep me going, but they are elderly themselves and shouldn’t really be going out.”
I WAS BESIDE MYSELF THAT I COULDN'T HELP HER - I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE TO TURN.Jan, Penny's sister
Jan’s worry for Penny gave her sleepless nights – until one night, she had a brainwave. “I woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly thought of the Red Cross,” said Jan. “I wondered if they could advise me on where to try, so I got onto the website straight away and sent an email, and had a call back from Tina the next day, offering to help.”
Our quick-thinking teams have adapted their services
Tina works in our crisis response team in Sussex, one of the many Red Cross teams who have had to think quickly to adapt their services since the lockdown began. She told Jan about a new way of helping vulnerable people in self-isolation: a secure and contactless volunteer shopping service, made possible by the voucher-sharing platform Huggg.
The Red Cross has joined forces with Huggg to enable people stuck at home with no access to food and other essentials to write lists and pay for their shopping online. A Red Cross volunteer then picks up the shopping and delivers it to the doorstep, allowing people to choose exactly which foods they’d like.
After Jan sent over Penny’s list, Ashley, who has been a crisis response volunteer for three years, was assigned to deliver the shopping. “A couple of the items Penny wanted weren’t on the shelves, so I gave her a ring to introduce myself and ask her if she’d like me to pick up any alternatives,” explained Ashley. “Once she was happy with everything, I went to pay. For the delivery, we ring at the door, put the shopping on the step and stand well back.”
Taking the time to check in with people
Ashley says that being a Red Cross volunteer means more than simply delivering food. “It feels good to help people and it’s great to walk away knowing that you’ve done some good,” he said.
“When Penny came out I took the opportunity to check how she was doing. At the Red Cross we’re always trying to make sure people get the support they need, and we check in at every opportunity. The lockdown is taking its toll on everyone’s mental health and you can’t always tell what someone is going through, so it’s always important to ask.”
Meanwhile, Penny says that something as simple as a food delivery was a huge weight off her mind – particularly now she knows how easy it will be to restock her supplies. “[The Red Cross] was an answer to a prayer – a genuine lifesaver,” she said. “I was so pleased to get the shopping and it was wonderful to be able to choose my own food and get exactly what I wanted.”
[THE RED CROSS] WAS AN ANSWER TO A PRAYER - A GENUINE LIFESAVER.Jan, Penny's sister
Jan, too, says that now Penny’s basic needs are taken care of, both sisters are coping better in the current situation. “I’m still so happy about it,” said Jan. “Penny is happy, she has food on the table, and I don’t have to worry about it any more.”
The sisters hope they will be reunited soon, and for now Penny says she is looking on the bright side. “It’s a bit frustrating that I can’t get outside, but I can still see the flowers blooming in the garden,” she said. “Lockdown isn’t much fun - but when you stop and listen, there’s a lot of kindness around. I’m so grateful to the Red Cross - thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.”
Would you like to help someone like Penny?
Due to a huge response, Community Reserve Volunteer applications are now paused. However, we still have many other interesting volunteer opportunities available. Please take a look - any support you can give will make such a difference to people in need.
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