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Huntly volunteer group provide lifeline to community in Covid-19 lockdown

By Pat Scott

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A woman with a life threatening illness says volunteers are providing a vital service for her and her husband during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Joanne Staff who lives near Marnoch has CNS vasculitis and has been shielding with her husband, John since early March.

Covid-19 would be fatal for her and as soon as there were cases in Scotland, they went into lockdown.

They have food deliveries but are indebted to members of the Huntly Coronavirus-Covid-19 volunteers group who ensure prescriptions for her life extending medication are delivered.

The group, formed early in the pandemic now numbers around 50 of all ages and with different skills who are supporting people in a wide area.

Mrs Staff (54) said: "Having the volunteer takes away a lot of the worry. I can't risk anything. My immune system is permanently compromised to control the condition. I am in a drug induced remission but nothing could be done if it escalated."

Medication to keep her alive is brought by volunteer, Zandra Smith and left at their gate.

Her husband takes it into the house, wearing gloves and it is left untouched for 72 hours to eliminate any Covid-19 contamination on the packaging.

Mrs Staff added: "I am very grateful to the group. People looking from outside might not see the value, but as the person in need, to have someone say, we can take care of it makes a difference.

"I really hope they get recognition when this is over."

Patsy Leys (77) lives at the Battlehill. Ms Leys is in the high risk group due to diabetes and described her weekly visit from volunteer Di Mitchell as "a breath of fresh air."

Ms Leys said: "I have someone who comes once a week but I was running out of food so got in touch with the group.

"Di is great. I leave my shopping list for her, she goes and gets what I need and leaves it on the step and I leave the payment so that we always keep our two metres apart. People need to do what they are told and keep their distance.

"I am really grateful to have her and don't have to worry about running out of groceries."

Inspired by her mum, Di, 12 year old Mackenzie Mitchell has made a regular commitment to walk the dog of an elderly lady while Pauline Kidd, locked down at her home near Cairnie, is the friendly voice at the end of the phone or Zoom call, helping people who are struggling with their mental health and well being.

Ms Kidd said: "If people are worried a cheery blether can help lift their anxieties. I get them to think about cheerier times. There are simple, quick methods out there to get someone from a negative place to somewhere more positive.

"If people have negative thoughts they just get bigger and bigger in their head but chatting makes them become smaller."

Ms Kidd is not just helping those in lockdown but also people working in public facing roles with anxieties about keeping themselves and their families safe when they witness rules on social distancing being broken.

She added: "I love what is being done in Huntly. If we work together and make it a collective endeavour, there's a real chance to get out of this."

P7 pupil, Mackenzie gets her school work out of the way early in the day so that she is free to walk Prince for his owner.

She said: "I love helping others and walking Prince means I am helping someone who can't do it herself because of coronavirus."

Ms Kidd is happy for anyone to contact her via her Facebook page, Paulinekidd.com or the volunteers group number - 07752458324.

Andrea Clark, a founding member of the group is self isolating but handles calls.

She said: "We are helping lots of folk with all kinds of things - shopping, prescriptions, dog walking, mowing, a friendly phone call, home cooked food or advice on who to contact.

"We have helped over 100 people - the phone can be busy all day. As a volunteer, and I know others feel the same,it doesn't feel like we are doing a great deal. We are just being kind to folk who need help in this strange time.

"Volunteers on the front-line are indispensable, they are a great team."

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