An independent charity at the heart of community work in Epping Forest has received a grant of £10,000 to support the most vulnerable people across the district during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding, which is from Essex Community Foundation, has made a big difference to Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF) as they have been able to adapt their projects to support the elderly, people with learning disabilities and those on benefits.

Jacqui Foile from VAEF said: “Using our volunteer expertise we rapidly set up a district-wide community response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We have been co-ordinating volunteers and businesses to support those in crisis. Our services include telephone support, shopping, collecting prescriptions and providing welfare support and advice.

“We have incurred additional staff salary costs and running costs but have a reduced income due to cancelled fundraising events, loss of chargeable services and donations. The grant from ECF has helped us to meet the extra costs and keep our services going.”

Maggie Gilchrist, volunteer centre coordinator for VAEF, said that volunteers have pulled out all the stops to help those in need.

Highlighting examples of the help given, Maggie said: “During the pandemic one of our volunteers, Kelly, put herself forward to remotely support the clients from the VAEF Community Clubs, as they could not run because this group of residents are very clinically vulnerable.

“She calls 12 clients twice a week to do welfare checks, ensuring the clients are getting their shopping and prescriptions as well as encouraging them to do gentle exercise and help them feel less lonely.

“Kelly took on new clients too, one who was a neighbour that had no living family or friends left. Kelly went above and beyond to support this resident. She was honoured when this resident asked her to be in her support bubble. Kelly always meets up maintaining social distance and going above government guidance.”

Maggie also highlighted two other volunteers, Phyl and Peter, who were also keen to make some contribution towards supporting those most affected and threatened by this unprecedented situation.

“Phyl and Peter wanted to work through an established community group and VAEF seemed to fit the bill. As they both already had current DBS checks, they were quickly allocated a local family to support who were unable to shop for themselves.

“We also made contact with the local pharmacy and offered to deliver prescription medicines to those who had been instructed to isolate and shield themselves. To date, Peter and Phyl have delivered over a staggering 1,300 prescriptions to their village residents and continue to deliver more every day.”

VAEF, an independent charity, has been the backbone of community work in Epping Forest since it was set up 1993 and will continue to give as much support as possible to people in need, during and after the pandemic. VAEF can be contacted by calling 01992 910 701 or