The NHS recognised the work of the Watchet Coronavirus Support Group this week. 

Since lockdown began it has been busy delivering food and prescriptions in response to more than 600 requests from residents in Watchet and outlying areas, besides offering a chat line to anyone who needs it. 

It was set up by a group of residents before the lockdown began.

“We could see what was coming and prepared well,” said Liz McGrath, one of the group.

“It began with Georgie Grant, Sally Lowndes from the Onion Collective, Sharon Garcia- Vince, Sara Summers, Janet Tapp and Sam Westmacott from Wacet. 

"They foresaw a lockdown would create all sorts of problems for vulnerable people, which would increase as time went on.” 

Swiftly they pulled in other individuals and organisations like the Coastal Community Team, Mind, Village Agents Williton and Watchet Town Council and the Quantock Foodbank.

“When needed, a complex network of 40 volunteers was ready to provide a shopping and prescription delivery service and another 20 were available to provide social chit chat and emotional support on phones.” said Liz McGrath.

None of this would have been possible without Simon Brown of Cotton Street, who created a website, Facebook page and co-ordinated the telephone services necessary in less than a week. 

Sitting in front of a bank of screens in his kitchen, he created and now co-ordinates the service which relies on Zoom meetings for planning.  

Nurses are struggling because as they come off their shifts, they must change their clothing to avoid contaminating their families. 

Janet and a little team are making washbags out of sterile pillow-cases supplied by Julian Bloys of Julian's Laundry in Minehead, so that the nurse changes clothes on the ward, or in their porches, puts infected clothing straight into a bag and tosses it into their washing machine for immediate cleansing.

In packs of three these have so far been distributed to Chard, Bridgwater, Minehead, Williton and Taunton hospitals.  Some are even being sent to a Lincoln nurse.  So far more than 500 have been made and are on their way.  The intention is to keep up production.

“The nurses need our help,” says Janet Tapp. 

“We imagine they are getting sore ears from wearing masks so now we are making and sending out cotton ear protectors.”

Everything sent out from Watchet Coronavirus Support Group carries a heart and a message “made with love.”

Looking ahead the group are packing bags of face masks ready for when the lockdown eases.

Janet Tapp said:“We are very careful about the material we use, advise at best they will offer 70 per cent protection. We want the people of Watchet safe.”

The group is in close communication with similar networks which have sprung up in Roadwater, Williton and other nearby communities.

The helpline number is 01984 573073

The Watchet Coronavirus Community Help group is supported by the National Lottery Community Fund’s Place Based Social Action programme.