Saying thank you to volunteers

Carol and Lexi

This National Volunteers' Week, a self-isolating Sunderland resident has thanked the volunteers who have been helping her through the COVID-19 lockdown.

Carol Walker, 64, has said she would have struggled to cope during the pandemic without the support of volunteers, as she has been shielding due to falling into the high-risk category.

Carol, who is from Castletown, said: "The last few weeks have been really difficult for me, I don’t have any family and I have recently lost my mam. I don’t think I could have coped without the support of volunteers who have helped me while I’m shielding."

Some of the support Carol has received is from Sunderland North Community Business Centre (SNCBC), which has also been assisting key workers with childcare, making up and delivering activity packs, taking crisis food orders and making befriending calls, from its base at Winchester House in Town End Farm.

Sam Osmond is a Castle Raising Aspirations Project Officer at SNCBC and has formed part of the volunteer team, she said: "We have been helping Carol as she doesn’t have many local contacts or support. I have been helping her with her shopping, as well as paying her visits to check that she is well.

"It's so sad and unfortunate that we are in this situation, but I am glad we are able to offer support to the people who need it most.

"We also have to look to the future. While we do all this support work now, we're also strengthening our community and volunteering links as we look ahead."

Carol has also been helped by volunteer Margaret Frankland, who has been walking Carol’s dog, Lexie, while she stays home.

Margaret was one of more than 1,000 people who came forward when Sunderland City Council appealed for new volunteers to help the city's vulnerable and housebound.

She said: "I’m happy to be able to help, I have enjoyed walking Carol’s dog for her on a morning. It’s great for overall wellbeing and mental health to get out walking while making a positive difference to someone else’s life.

"When I pick Lexie up and drop her back off, I will have a chat will Carol at her door so its nice to have that social interaction that helps us to feel less isolated."

Carol added: "I am really grateful for the help Sam has given me, doing my shopping for me and making sure I have everything I need, while Margaret has been walking my dog for me every day, and even arranging for her sister to walk the dog for me when she was ill herself. They have been angels and I can’t thank them enough.

"I think it’s easy to forget that some people who are self-isolating don’t see anybody at all, so having volunteers can make a huge difference to their lives."

More than 1,000 people came forward when the City Council called for volunteers to help vulnerable Sunderland residents. It followed a Government call for more people to come forward, help support the NHS, and help those who have been advised to stay indoors and shield themselves from COVID-19.

Chair of the North Area Committee, Councillor Denny Wilson, said: “While the last few months have undoubtedly been difficult for everyone, it is encouraging to see this fantastic community spirit and hardworking volunteers making a difference in their neighbourhoods.

"I would like to say thank you to everyone who came forward to volunteer their time and resources, working alongside the council to look out for the most vulnerable people in our society."

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Sunderland's Friendship Agreement with Washington DC makes us the only city in Europe to enjoy such a relationship with the world's most powerful city. Washington Old Hall is home to the direct ancestors of the first president of the United States of America.

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