Russell Bevan is the Secretary of, Farranree Community Association, a small charity on the North side of Cork City that provides the Meals on Wheels service to the elderly and vulnerable in the local and surrounding areas. He tells us how the coronavirus has affected their services and how they have coped.

We have been operating for many years and have had to rely on a small band of very loyal volunteers, 5 in number, for the most part, to ensure that the service is maintained. Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus we used to provide on average 60 hot meals four days a week that were prepared and cooked in the Community Centre that we worked out of by two staff members.

Then along comes coronavirus to cause chaos and force us into alterations that we could never have envisaged, we could no longer all get together, we could no longer use stainless steel dishes to transport the meals, we could no longer cross the threshold into the recipients’ residence, we could no longer do any small tasks for them.

It has caused a lot of upheaval but with the right people and a can do attitude, we have managed to continue running the service without any interruption to our normal timetable.

Admittedly, administratively it has been a massive task to implement almost overnight but we have managed it by introducing signage all through the Centre instructing staff and volunteers of the procedures they now have to adhere to so that social distancing can be maintained at all times.

Whilst COVID-19 has been devastating for so many, from our own point of view it has brought both negatives and positives.

The positives are less washing up and more importantly the huge increase in the number of volunteers we now have registered with us, which has gone from 5 to 24 since we registered with the Cork Volunteer Centre, whilst administratively it can be time consuming and cause headaches trying not to omit anyone from the schedule, it is a very nice problem to have, in comparison to begging your wife and two gentlemen of advanced years to keep helping you out week in week out.

With the addition of so many volunteers it has allowed three of our regular drivers to cocoon, which they were loathed to do until they knew that we would be able to continue the service, if our new volunteers prove to be of the same ilk and the signs so far are good we will have no problems running the service for as long as it is required. Interestingly over 80% of our new volunteers are tender in years, which offers great hope that going forward the country and charities in particular, will be in safe hands for many years to come.

It is to be hoped that most if not all of those who have recently volunteered will stay with us after this crisis ends, obviously only time will tell, but if they follow the lead of two of our volunteers, one who insisted on driving to the City from Bantry recently to fulfil the commitment she had made to us and another who has made his own partition screen for his car so that he could volunteer, I am confident that the future will be bright for us all.

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