Tracy Squire started work as the Children and Families Youth Worker for St Laurence’s Church in Scalby (Scarborough) on 1 February. Tracy writes:

Just as I had completed my first month and started to feel I was making headway in getting to know all the incredible families who attend our church and children’s groups – Coronavirus happened.

As school closure loomed we realised that lockdown for many would be soon happening and, as a church, we wanted to show our faith in a different way – by looking after the vulnerable and supporting our community. An idea was hatched by Sophie and Sue and within 3 days we had formulated a plan. Helen designed a flyer and co-ordinated 30 volunteers to deliver 2300 of them - one for each household in our parish, with my work mobile as the contact number. They went out on 21 March and I had calls within the first 2 hours – from those in need, and from those who were anxious but also those willing to help if needed, which was brilliant.

Our church family has many people in the vulnerable categories who were unable to help with shopping/prescription deliveries but who were equally determined to pray for us and be added to a list of those who would ring lonely people who might welcome a friendly chat. We all wanted to reach out to those in our community we don’t already know, as well as those we do.

We recruited volunteers who were already background-checked, either by the church or through their jobs as teachers, health professionals, police officers etc, since it was vitally important to ensure those we helped (and our volunteers) were safe. We also carefully planned our procedures to maintain social distancing and adhere to government instructions as they evolved.

Our volunteers are amazing! Because they are not in the more vulnerable groups many have continued working full-time, home-schooling their children and shopping for their vulnerable parents, and so it was important they were not asked to go more than once a week for others. They were paired with those in need who lived close by, but each volunteer managed to shop for at least 2 others in that weekly trip.

Proudfoot’s Newby staff have been so helpful (and patient), allowing us to put several baskets of shopping through their till, each with separate money in order to help. As time went on and demand grew we became immensely thankful for the local businesses who changed their working model to help, by delivering and taking phone orders. Thanks to tip-offs from our church family and friends who constantly kept an eye on social media and local news, I was able to compile a list of these businesses to pass on to those in need.

95% of those I have spoken to, or arranged shopping, prescriptions or regular phone calls for, have never been to our church and that’s wonderful. It means we’re helping to break down barriers between our church and our community and meet people we may not have done otherwise.

It’s really hard for those without family nearby and with no internet. Their only company is TV, which gives the bleakest news. Without being able to see the outside world, some people just needed to know the emergency services were still there and that there were many good news stories of those recovering, brilliant fundraising and inspiring stories we see or hear when we’re connected to others.

After the first few weeks I began to hear wonderful stories of neighbours getting to know each other. One lady had gone to her door to clap for the NHS and had spoken (at distance) to her neighbour – usually out at work all day – for the first time. The neighbour had then offered to shop for her which was a beautiful yet unexpected outcome to the NHS support.

I have received calls from approximately 180 people from all over our area – as far away as Gristhorpe (with relatives as far away as Liverpool and Southampton). I even had a call asking for help to get a relative back from Russia - until the caller realised she’d mixed up the phone numbers and I was the person she needed to get her prescription. It brought much needed laughter and we’ve stayed in touch after her husband returned safely, leading to an offer to support others on the phone since then. It’s a tiny number of the millions in isolation but looking at those first government figures as to how minimising contact for each person can dramatically reduce spread, we feel we are making a worthwhile difference.

I’m so extremely grateful for the prayers and encouragement of all or church community and also to Kathy, Chris, Emma, Claire, Trevor, Caroline and Mike for helping me with the deliveries, to Gordon, Marion and Sue for offering friendship through phone calls and Lesley for helping me to learn to use social media to keep in touch and up to date with developments. To all those who have offered to help – thank you so much and I may yet be in touch as you are needed!

The people we are helping are so grateful - we’ve met some amazing people.

I’m very blessed to be employed by St Laurence’s Church, all thanks to the generosity of church members, many of whom are elderly (and therefore don’t benefit directly from my usual work) but who cherish and value youth work and our younger families, so it’s an added bonus for me that I have got to know so many of them through this tragic situation of Covid-19.

I would also like to thank Abi - one of our congregation and Sunday Supper member - and my own three children who have used their time in isolation to create online videos to reassure and encourage our younger members throughout the pandemic. It’s been important not to overlook their about anxieties being taken from school and witnessing the worry around them. Having an opportunity for the older children to play a part is something I hope to build on when we can get back into our lovely church buildings again.