‘I could see something was needed’ - How a community support group is helping the vulnerable

John Ward, chairman of the Pakefield Community Group. Pictures: Mick Howes

John Ward, chairman of the Pakefield Community Group. Pictures: Mick Howes - Credit: Archant

They were responsible for co-ordinating the response to meet the needs of a community during the first national lockdown.

John Ward, chairman of the Pakefield Community Group. Pictures: Mick Howes

John Ward, chairman of the Pakefield Community Group. Pictures: Mick Howes - Credit: Archant

And now, amid the continuing coronavirus crisis, a vital helpline is back up-and-running as it provides support to vulnerable people in Pakefield.

The Pakefield Community Group set up a helpline within the first few days of lockdown in March – and the service “became a lifeline” with more than 800 referrals as over 150 people were assisted.

With the service having resumed on Monday, November 9, the Pakefield Community Group has provided help with shopping, collecting prescriptions, walking dogs and running errands as well as signposting people to other organisations and providing support to those in need.

The group’s chairman John Ward and his wife Ann have overseen the response – as the couple’s lounge had to be transformed into an office to deal with the demand.

Back then - community celebrations at Pakefield as the Christmas tree returns in 2017. Pictures: Mick Howes

Back then - community celebrations at Pakefield as the Christmas tree returns in 2017. Pictures: Mick Howes - Credit: Archant


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Existing as a ward community group before lockdown, the Pakefield Community Group was formed in late 2017 – and it will continue to be active with other Pakefield matters.

Reflecting on the past year, Mr Ward said: “It was more or less before lockdown started, I could see that something was needed for getting help in the community.

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“So we set the helpline up straight away after delivering leaflets to all of Pakefield, and then the volunteers came on board.

“We managed to get more than 40 volunteers come forward to help us assist over 150 community members with their essential needs.

In 2017, the Christmas tree returned to Pakefield with local schoolchildren involved in decorating it. Pictures: Mick Howes

In 2017, the Christmas tree returned to Pakefield with local schoolchildren involved in decorating it. Pictures: Mick Howes - Credit: Archant

“Through the lockdown period my wife and I were able to co-ordinate efforts and run a daily helpline from our home responding to more than 800 requests for assistance.

“When we started I thought we may get 10 or so calls a week, but at the height of the lockdown we were doing 35 to 40 referrals a day.

“We had a daily rota and allocated all the jobs out – the volunteers were fantastic.”

Such was the reaction, and success of the helpline, that Mr Ward and the Pakefield Community Group were featured in a ‘celebration of our local heroes’ as East Suffolk Council saluted them in a booklet that highlights the community response to Covid-19.

Mr Ward added: “Without a doubt our helpline became a lifeline for many.”

Having resumed the helpline from Monday, November 9, Mr Ward said: “Its been very worthwhile.

“We will not turn away any requests for assistance to try and ensure that everyone gets the help they need.”

Born and bred in Pakefield, Mr Ward said that the “seeds for a community group” had first been planted in 2017.

He recalled: “I was approached in November 2017 and asked if I could possibly assist in getting the Christmas tree reinstated at Pakefield Terminus.”

Admitting he wasn’t surprised by the “amazing” community response, it all stemmed from a few local residents initiating a fundraising effort to eventually having local shops, schools, businesses and householders involved in ensuring that Pakefield once again had a community Christmas tree standing proudly.

With the Pakefield Community Group formed from this, with Mr Ward as chairman, he recalled: “I wanted to try and encourage this spirit for all of the year, and not just for Christmas – the rest as they say is history.

“For the last three years, our group has ensured that the centre of Pakefield is adorned by its own Christmas tree, and although our usual celebrations may be limited, we will of course proceed with our plans this year.

“Funded by the generosity of our residents, and assisted by local businesses kindly donating their time and equipment, it still takes a lot of time and effort to arrange.”

With this in mind, the Pakefield Community Group is keen to attract more active members.

Mr Ward said: “We are trying to build up the number of officers and the group’s management committee.

“Although we had to cancel all of our community events this year through Covid-19, I am hoping that plans already made for next year will be able to come to fruition.”

If you would like to support the Pakefield Community Group, or if you are someone in the Pakefield community that needs assistance, call 01502 582964.

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