A Rotary club has switched its support to a second key charitable group in a Shropshire village.

Having started by supporting the Pontesbury and Minsterley Food Hub, the Rotary Club of Shrewsbury Severn is now donating to the Needy Good Neighbours group. At their last Zoom meeting members of the Rotary club heard that the group looks after lonely people suffering with mental health issues.

Rotarian John Yeomans, who chairs the club’s community and vocational committee, said members had been giving a donation of £100 a month to the food hub out of money that would previously have paid for a weekly meal. With members of the club being unable to meet on a weekly basis, the meal money had benefited the Pontesbury and Minsterley Food Hub for several months in 2020.

This support, at the food hub’s request, had come to an end and the club’s attention had been drawn to the community good neighbours group. The club decided it should continue to support the local community and people deeply in need by financially helping the group who provide it. Members of Shrewsbury Severn Rotary agreed that their meal money should  support the Needy Good Neighbours group and will therefore give £100 a month for the next three months.

Sharon Davies of Pontesbury is one of the leaders of the new group. She wrote to Rotary: “Following on from the food bank we found there are so many people who are lonely and unable to complete even simple tasks because of age or illness. Some really struggle with mental health having spent months isolating and not seeing anyone. We got our heads together and started the group which is run by volunteers who just run errands and take to doctors or hospital. Others are befrienders who make phone calls each week and where possible see their new friend. The longer term plan is that when coronavirus is over they will provide help in the garden, take people shopping and to clubs. We already have a number of volunteers phoning and chatting to people each week. On the flip side we have found people who unbelievably live in poverty – we have been shocked to find this on our doorstep. We have started a hardship fund through which we are planning to help people who are referred through councillors and doctors. It may be to help buy a new cooker with a donation from us or it may be a pair of shoes for a child. Obviously, we will only be able to do this with support from fundraising and donations. I am sincerely grateful for the support of Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club for the food bank and now their continued support through the hardship fund.”

Following further contact, Sharon went into more detail on the background to events in the area that have unfolded during the pandemic. She said: “I have lived in Minsterley and now Pontesbury all my life, I have two grown up boys, who also live locally, and one grandchild.  I have always been one of those people that raises money for charities and good causes. Because I am local I am able to draw on local help and know the right people. I work in the local Co-op in the bakery so am fortunate enough to see lots of people daily and once a week I also support two young men with complex needs. At the start of the pandemic I rallied round and was able to get help from over 50 people to deliver prescriptions and collect shopping.  I could also see there was a need for a food bank especially in those first few weeks so supported by the Parish Council and local businesses we were able to open one up in the New Pavillion.  We moved premises to the Congregational Church around August time and this remained open until the end of December. Thankfully, numbers had significantly decreased over the months and we felt it was the right thing to do. However, that does not mean support has stopped for The Rea Valley area. Following on from the volunteer group and food bank, a group of us have started up the Community Good Neighbours, supported by Pontesbury Parish Council, Pontesbury Medical Practise and Severn Hospice.

We are able to offer volunteers to help collect medication and shopping and become befrienders – these are for people who have been highlighted during the pandemic as being lonely, vulnerable and in need of a friendly phone call once or twice a week. Moving on after the pandemic they will continue their befriending by helping in the garden, walks and whatever is needed.  We also have set up a hardship fund so if anyone comes forward for food we are able to give a Co-op card with money on, or help with a purchase of school clothing.”

She added: “We really don’t know how it will work out as obviously we are limited to what we can do and what we can offer at the moment. But the group is long term and with support other groups like Rotary and fundraising at this end we can offer the help that is so badly needed. I look forward to working with Rotary over the next couple of months and thank them for their ongoing support.”

Sharon with her grandson Charlie age 4
John Yeomans

Julian Wells

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