Kay takes on new volunteer role to help local community during Covid 19


Kay Powell, Repairs Planner in Property Care, usually spends her days working with the team on our Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) programme. But when lockdown was enforced, she answered the call for volunteers to help support the local Covid-19 response and became a personal shopper for Age UK Oldham.

“I’ve been part of the service for about seven weeks in total, delivering shopping to older people who can’t get out for essential supplies because they are self-isolating or shielding and don’t have any help from anyone else,” Kay explains.

A total of ten volunteers from our organisation have been supporting Age UK Oldham’s personal shopping service for the past nine weeks, with a further 21 providing befriending calls to the elderly, too.

Each day our Volunteer Co-Ordinator Naomi Martin Smith connects shopping requests with our personal shopping team, which picks them up and delivers food to people’s doorsteps. The service operates all over the borough and Kay has dropped off bags of shopping to people across Shaw, Royton, Chadderton, Higginshaw, Failsworth, Bardsley, Greenacres, and Lees.

While it’s usually essentials and the odd treat on the shopping lists, Kay has had some memorable requests that she’s been more than happy to fulfil.

“One lady asked me to pick up a pair of slippers for her because her dog had chewed up hers, that was unexpected! They’re a necessity if you’re stuck indoors all day I suppose, so I got her a pair from the supermarket when I was in there.”

As the service is for those who don’t have anyone else to shop for them, there’s an important social side to the work of Kay and the rest of the team. A friendly wave through the window or a chat across the garden can make a world of difference to people who are on their own.

“It can be hard, especially when you know they are struggling. One customer invited me in for a cup of tea and a biscuit just when lockdown started. She was just lonely because her husband was in hospital and it was a difficult time for her and all she wanted was company. Obviously I couldn’t oblige, but she’s asked me if I’ll go and have a brew with her when this is all over – and I will.

“I drop off shopping to lots of different people, but there are some who I’ve visited more than once and I’ve started to get to know them. I hear about how they are spending their time, their family and so on and it’s just nice to chat for a few minutes. The overwhelming response is that they are all grateful for the service because they can’t get out, and it’s good to see how you’re making a difference.”

This year Volunteer’s Week (1-7 June) comes at a time where the power of volunteering is more visible than ever but Kay says helping the local community brings its own rewards: “I think the way that volunteers are getting involved in services like this and other things involved is a great thing. It’s good for the community and it gives you a sense of value – especially at the moment.

“It gets me out and about and supporting people who need it and that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? I’m really enjoying it and it’s made me think I’d like to carry on helping people locally when all this is over.”

Volunteers’ Week is a celebration of the contribution that millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. Join us all week on Twitter and Facebook where we’ll be marking our Volunteering service’s achievements and thanking all our wonderful volunteers for their continued hard work.

If you would like to get involved with helping Age UK Oldham, please contact Maggie Hurley on 0161 622 9252 or email Maggie.Hurley@ageukoldham.org.uk.