ALTON Mutual Aid volunteer group has been serving the people of Alton and surrounding villages since lockdown began.

Set up by local volunteers, it has been supporting vulnerable residents isolated because of the coronavirus pandemic, delivering pharmacy prescriptions, shopping for residents, posting letters and running a phone line so people can call up and ask for help.

To date, the phone line and email address have responded to thousands of calls, culminating in more than 750 individual requests for tasks.

In addition, Mutual Aid has completed more than 1,300 deliveries for Alton’s A31 pharmacies, making sure isolated residents in Alton and the surrounding villages get their vital prescriptions each month on time.

Recently, the group has worked with Alton Community Care Cars to support their service and has offered to support the Alton food bank as it reopens its premises (see Page 32).

Even with the recent easing of some restrictions, the end of May saw the highest number of requests in a single week, and more volunteers are now needed to help.

Penney Hames, one of the lead coordinators, has expressed concern about the effect on the number of volunteers the easing of working rules is having.

“We are now concerned as many volunteers return to work, leaving us with fewer people who can do deliveries, especially during the day,” she said.

“We are so grateful to everyone who has helped throughout this difficult time but we need more people to come forward if they can.”

Councillor Paula Langley said: “This has been a lifeline to our residents who have had to self-isolate, and it is an amazingly positive project to be involved in.

“I would highly recommend getting involved if you can – it has kept me positive during this very difficult time.”

You only have to read some of the comments from grateful residents posted by co-ordinator Neal McTaggart, on the Alton Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook page, to understand how much it has meant to the people it has helped:

“You are a lifesaver and doing a fantastic thing,” reads one typical post.

Another read: “Just to say a big thank you for the food delivery to my parents today. It would be so very difficult for us to get food to them without your help.”

And finally: “We would like to thank Alton Covid-19 Mutual Aid very much for picking up our pills from Alton Pharmacy last Thursday and delivering them here to us in Holybourne.

“Just to let you know it was much appreciated and thanks to you and all the volunteers.”

Anyone offering to help is encouraged to email [email protected] or [email protected]

While anyone requiring help or support can call the free helpline, which is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, on 0800 066 3697.