Kindness runs through the heart of village life in Hook Norton.
In the two weeks that have passed since the Government’s official coronavirus lockdown, dozens of residents have come forward to join not one but several different support groups to help the elderly or vulnerable and NHS staff.
In Hook Norton the urgency to support the country’s doctors, nurses and provide help to those who need it locally has galvanised the entire village to come together.
Hooky Neighbours has seen a surge in members wanting to come forward to help residents with shopping, picking up prescriptions and attending hospital appointments for cancer treatment.
An NHS Cakes volunteer group has also been set up with 12 residents regularly producing treats throughout the week which are then delivered to hospitals in the area for staff to enjoy.
Another resident, so moved by the plight of NHS staff, has started a group producing masks and scrub bags made from donated bedsheets and duvet covers for nurses, doctors and care home staff.
Michelle Dix, (pictured below with Rizpah Shires) a founding member of the Hooky Neighbours group which was set up two years ago, said the willingness to come together as a community and help at this time is a reflection of the ethos of the village: ‘’We ask ourselves, what do people need and how can we help?
‘’Everyone that gets involved and helps always leaves with a smile on their face and comments on how much they’ve enjoyed helping someone.’’
The number of volunteers in the Hooky Neighbours Whatsapp group has swelled from 30 to 73 in the last two to three weeks.
Teacher Rizpah Shires, Deputy Head of English at Wykham Park Academy in Banbury, is a member of the group and has responsibility for driving a cancer patient to and from her hospital appointments for blood tests and chemotherapy.
Miss Shires, who has lived in the Oxfordshire village for 15 years, will also take requests for help with shopping and prescriptions, she told the Banbury Guardian: ‘’Hook Norton is a friendly village and one which cares about its residents. As public sector workers, we are all in it together. As a teacher I feel a sense of duty to help our wonderful NHS.
”This is also an opportunity for people to show how kind they are. We are all indebted to the NHS. My partner Derek has Parkinson’s and he has a consultant that he sees along with a nurse and a physiotherapist.
”He wouldn’t be able to function without the NHS and in another country the drugs that he takes would not be provided. The care from the NHS is faultless.
‘’The residents we help are very grateful and I’m grateful to Sylvia Thomas, Principal at Wykham Park for adjusting the rota to allow me to help when needed.’’
Hilary Shires, 79, (pictured below) has lived in the village for 10 years and has been making two cakes a week since lockdown which have been delivered by her daughter Rizpah to Horton Hospital and John Radcliffe Hospital. Mrs Shires said: ‘’I’ve made tea loaves and sponges which everyone likes.
‘’The NHS staff are doing such a fantastic job and doing dangerous work while I’m at home. Making a cake allows me to play a small part in saying thank you to them. The canteens and shops in the hospitals have shut and a piece of cake will help to keep their spirits up.’’
Bethan Dennick, 51, (pictured below with her teenage daughter Tabitha) is a member of Hooky Neighbours but recently spotted a message from a nurse on social media asking for a scrub bag. These are used to hold uniforms of medical staff and the message stated that it needed to be made from a cotton that can be washed at 60 degrees, a temperature known to kill off bacteria, viruses and remove stains.
It prompted Mrs Dennick, who works in customer service at Blenheim Palace, to place a post on social media asking for unwanted cotton pillowcases and duvet covers and to bring out her sewing machine.
Around 150 orders for scrub bags have been placed in the last three days from John Radcliffe Hospital, a care home and a health centre in Chipping Norton. Masks have also been ordered and Mrs Dennick has several local volunteers to help her.
She said: ‘’None of us [the volunteers] are doing this for recognition. Lots and lots of people are doing their part to help in any way that they can because it’s the right thing to do. There are so many lovely people in the village doing such good work to support and appreciate the wonderful key workers. It makes you appreciate where you live.’’
Last week it emerged an incredible 750,000 people have signed up to join the NHS volunteer army in just 5 days to help our frontline health workers, doctors and nurses battle coronavrius.
A target of 250,000 had initially been set by Health Secretary Matt Hancock but this was trebled following the huge response from the public. The appeal has now closed.
These kind-hearted individuals will this week start delivering food and medication to 1.5million vulnerable people who have been told to stay at home.
They will also transport patients to and from hospital and provide regular phone calls to the lonely and isolated.
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