There is no doubting that times have been tough and people have had to face some very challenging circumstances, but residents across the area have pulled together to do everything they can to help those around them.
From the Covid Co-operation group on Facebook, which was created last March as a way for struggling residents to reach out and quickly grew to over 10,000 members offering their support, to charities like Resurrected Bites and Supporting Older People, which have been offering food parcels and friendship for those in need, the support network our district has created is one to be marvelled at.
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Through a year like no other, neighbours, strangers and friends have offered a helping hand wherever it has been needed.
The Covid Co-operation group was created by Susie Little as a forum for residents to offer assistance to anyone who may be struggling as Covid-19 began spreading across the nation and tough social distancing and self-isolation measures were introduced ahead of the first national lockdown.
It was also a place for people to reach out and get the help they needed - whether that be physical gestures like picking up shopping for people who couldn’t leave their house or just words of encouragement to get through this uncertain and unprecedented time.
Susie told the Harrogate Advertiser: “Reflections on a year gone by are usually done around New Year, but this past year has been like no other.
“As we look back, between now and last March, Covid-19 has been a great leveller in some ways - everyone has had to follow lockdown rules no matter how privileged, and if there’s no loo roll on the supermarket shelf, there’s no loo roll, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. But at the same time, the pandemic has also revealed the extent of UK inequality like nothing else I can think of. What we have seen though, is a coming together, a community spirit, like no other as well.
“Covid Co-Operation has brought together nearly 11,000 local people committed to helping others through this awful time, and it has been extraordinary to see. And it continues - this isn’t over yet and for as long as people need help they’ll receive it from Covid Co-Operation members.
“I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve never been prouder of my town and the people in it.”
And that message is clear from all charities and community groups across the district - the work is not over yet.
There are still lots of people who need support and plenty of people committed to giving it to them.
Michelle Hayes, director at Resurrected Bites, has praised her team for helping the equivalent of 13,000 people since the pandemic began.
On March 18 last year, the organisation changed from a ‘pay as you feel’ community cafe to delivering free food, toiletries and household products to people across Harrogate who were struggling to access essentials.
The group has plans to continue its hard work throughout the year, looking to set up a community groceries scheme and reopen its cafes in the autumn.
Michelle said: “It is clear that the only way we could support so many people is because of our fabulous group of volunteers who have given so much time and energy to ensure that no one goes without. We currently have over 90 active volunteers and many more have helped over the past year but have now returned to work.
“As I look back on the past three years that Resurrected Bites has been operating and our plans for the future, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has helped us to reach so many people. I can honestly say we couldn’t have done it without you.”
Local charity Supporting Older People has also been delivering meals to the district’s elderly and most vulnerable residents, as well as offering a telephone befriending service to alleviate loneliness and special themed treats, like Valentine’s Day afternoon tea, to lift the spirits of those feeling isolated.
They are hoping to return face-to-face services soon.
Director Kate Rogata said: “We are incredibly lucky that the people we support have come through the past year safely and that our charity is in a strong position thanks to the support we have received.
“We couldn’t have done any of it without our brilliant trustees and volunteers and our staff team, Julia Lightfoot and Lorna Daniel have performed daily miracles and I am so grateful to them.”