The charity coordinating the Jewish community’s efforts to help the isolated and vulnerable throughout the pandemic has said more than 800 people signed up to assist in the past seven days.
GIFT, which is coordinating requests and offers through its five WhatsApp groups, said volunteers made more than 300 deliveries to those self-isolating amidst an “unprecedented” increase in requests for food parcels, as job losses mount.
“Every single request that we posted on our volunteer groups was filled within minutes,” said Michelle Barnett, director of GIFT. “The panicked phone calls were replaced with phone calls of gratitude.”
More than 300 care packs have been delivered to carers in hospitals and care homes, after panic buying stripped shelves bare, with key workers such as medics, nurses and carers left perusing empty aisles.
In the first three days, volunteers had done 186 shopping runs and picked up scores of prescriptions, but the charity has also been working to combat loneliness, coordinating calls and letters written to the elderly.
Many have been written by Jewish schoolchildren now at-home, who have become “pen pals” with many elderly community members stuck at home.
Despite the drastic upheaval in recent days, schools have continued to play a role in alerting volunteers to those who are self-isolating, with freshly-cooked meals delivered to doorsteps to provide some much-needed cheer.
Organisers said there were “hundreds” of examples of inspiring stories, including youngsters going to an elderly residents’ home to provide musical entertainment from a safe distance, with brothers Uri, 20, and Yoni Shine, 13, singing and playing keyboard in the garden of Sydmar Lodge Care Home on Sunday.
However there were also warnings that economic conditions meant there were more vital services to be offered. GIFT said requests for food packages had shot up by 25 percent this week alone, adding: “We will be providing services as long as healthy people are available and willing to deliver.”
The charity said it had rearranged its funding from schools to reallocate monies to these new initiatives. “We envisage that the number of families will double in the next year,” said Barnett. “We have seen that we can do much more for the elderly. They need support and care which GIFT volunteer initiatives can provide.”
She added that the charity’s 270 weekly food packages have continued but said there were now an “unprecedented number of new families requesting food support in the past few days alone,” before urging people to donate to the GIFT Appeal.