Somerset group rallies to help 10,000 vulnerable locals as community spirit grows around UK amid coronavirus lockdown

  • Video report by ITV News Wales & West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

The Office for National Statistics has recorded a surge in community sprit across the UK due, in part, to the sterling efforts of individuals up and down the country helping their neighbours.

One group in Taunton, Somerset has now helped more than 10,000 people, with locals combining their skills to support the more vulnerable in their community.

A postal worker dressed as an Oompa Loompa to raise money. Credit: ITV News

Among those volunteering as part of ‘Coronavirus Community Help Taunton’ are Ed and Jackie Cullen and outside of the coronavirus pandemic they run their own catering business.

The couple are putting their cookery skills to good use in more ways than one during lockdown, by delivery free meals to vulnerable people across Taunton.

Jean Crocker is grateful for the company as well as the food. Credit: ITV News

Jean Crocker, 91, is grateful not just for the hot meal Ed and Jackie provide, but also the social - and socially distanced - visit.

“I’ve been confined so I’ve relied on people ringing me up or popping into see me,” she told ITV News.

“Dropping a meal is one thing but actually having a two minute chat with them, asking them how they are, how they’re doing, how their day is, it makes a big and they’re really enjoying it,” Ed Cullen told ITV News.

Michelle Hume has struggled since her son died a couple of years ago and when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she was surviving on pennies and eating dry cereal until the community team stepped in.

She is now volunteering herself.

Co-ordinator Natalie Dyson. Credit: ITV News

“I didn’t want to ask for help,” she said. “I’m quite a proud person, but it got to that stage when I had nothing, absolutely nothing."

The list of Taunton’s good deeds includes everything from taking pets to vets, putting money on electric or gas meters to collecting prescriptions.

And a thousand local people are sewing scrubs for NHS staff, which are being delivered by a local driving school.

Behind this small Somerset army is co-ordinator Natalie Dyson, “You name it, we’re there,” she told ITV News.

“We’re set up to respond at a local level whatever the request may be.”

Two of Taunton’s postal workers have even ditched their red uniforms and become Wonder Woman and an Oompa Loompa on their rounds to raise money - and, no doubt, many smiles.