THERE is a pot of lentil soup on the stove at the Heart of Scotstoun. The aptly named community facility is just one of dozens of voluntary hubs which has had to adapt during the coronavirus crisis.

They would normally run as a daycare facility in Glasgow running a lunch club and activities, but they had to think differently to make sure they maintained a lifeline to vulnerable members of the community whom they would no longer be seeing face to face every week.

“We’ve got pots of soup on the go ready to send out in containers to people who would normally come through our doors,” said centre manager Amanda Quinn. “Some of the people who come here aren’t in a position to cook for themselves so if we can make sure they get a warm bowl of soup it will certain help during this time.”

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Heart of Scotstoun is run with five staff and the rest are volunteers.

Mrs Quinn added: “We really had to think what do we do here now there are restrictions in place. We couldn’t run as we normally did, but we knew there were people out there who would need help, and some of the people we see live with dementia.

“Sending out packs of fruit and veg just wouldn’t work for us as the recipients might not be able to cook for themselves. So we have had volunteers cooking in the centre – anything from spaghetti bolognese to curries and soups.

"Our volunteers who would normally help in the centre are now out driving their vans, and they themselves are over 65.”

Working during such strained times doesn’t come without its risks given how fast coronavirus can spread with the numbers of those infected in the UK rising daily, and it means strict measures are in place.

“Everything has to be done safely. When we deliver the food supplies we leave it at the door. There cannot be any face-to-face dealings now both for our volunteers and the people we are going to. We have to stay healthy in order to be able to run our facilities for as long we are allowed to. We don’t know if there might come a time when we have to close.”

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As has been widely seen across Scotland, people have been only too willing to offer help.

“We have had some people offering to volunteer, which is wonderful and well-meaning, but we have to maintain a familiar bond with the people we see and we couldn’t just send someone new in. At this time we are catering for more than 70 families, and that ranges from elderly people who normally come through the door to vulnerable families who have been put in touch with us. We also had a call from a couple of care centres in Maryhill and Drumchapel to see if we can reach out to some people in their community.

“We have got a very good supply chain with Glasgow-based Fareshare and on Monday night when it was announced that virtually everything was to be closed down, Eusebi’s Deli donated their surplus food to us. We already have a link-up with Arnold Clark who service our vans, but one of the members of staff was with us in the kitchen helping to make meals.”

While families are split apart, some just streets away, during this nationwide lockdown, others are a few hundred miles away.

Mrs Quinn added: “We have had calls from relatives of people living down south who can’t travel up to see their family. They just want to know that there loved one is getting something to eat. And we will do that for as long as we can.”

While Heart of Scotstoun is an existing group which has adapted, other groups have sprung up in direct response to the coronavirus.

One Facebook group in Edinburgh is trying to connect people in a time of need.

Torben Hutchings set up Facebook group Coronavirus Volunteering Edinburgh just over a week ago and has now helped to put in place a connections page.

He said: “Our page is all about helping people get the right information and access to information they need right now. It is not about the group giving the advice, but we thought there was a way we could put people in touch with those who could.

“Markus Ronde, Yuchen Shang, Daniel Connell and myself have been working on it, and it has really grown in the past few days to the extent we even have subgroups for specific issues such as access and disability, mental health, entertainment and welfare and, most importantly, the Local Group Locator which links people who are nearby.

"We also set up a survey and a database that volunteers could sign up to, which would allow charities to get in touch with volunteers based on their postcode.

“Handling the information of what could be a very large number of people was not something we took lightly, and we had to pause slightly and take stock to prevent setting up a system that might be abused or expose volunteers to undue liability or stress.

“Within a couple of days all social media elements were up and running and working well, and groups were continuing to pop out of the woodwork and connect in to our set up.”

The group has also had to adapt and respond as advice and guidance changed.

Mr Hutchings added: “Edinburgh is a big city and following the declaration of a UK-wide lockdown, we are going to ask people in these groups to limit their individual volunteering activities to their immediate areas even as close as stairwells and streets. We can’t really have people running from one end of town to another when this is all about helping to stop the spread of the virus.”

Another group which is serving its community is Kinross Kindness in Perth and Kinross and they are thinking outside the box and have even held a virtual coffee morning to bring people together.

Founder Tim Mart got the balling rolling and already they have dozens of people in the community offering to help.

Mr Mart said: “Our aim is to create a support network of incredible humans to help those needing to or thinking about self-isolation. That through kindness and compassion, they can do so in confidence and in knowing that their community is here to support them.

“We have more than 70 protecting vulnerable groups (PVG) checked volunteers of all ages supporting with phones, pick ups and deliveries. We just held our first virtual community coffee morning with music from the amazing Gillian Strachan, a worker at the local youth group KYTHE – Kinross-shire Youth Enterprise.

“The over-arching response from the vulnerable groups in the community has been a feeling of reassurance and confidence that Kinross Kindness exists.

“We also raised £1260 as part as a slush fund for those that cannot afford essentials at this time.

“Along with the many collections and deliveries we have undertaken, one of the interesting stories this week has been supporting a woman in Canada to arrange shopping for her 85 year-old grandparents in the Kinross-shire community who have been unable to leave their property.”

Volunteer Scotland, the body national body for volunteering, said they have seen traffic to their website increase along with the number of inquiries.

Alan Stevenson, IT & Communications Manager, Volunteer Scotland, said: "We’re seeing a spike in demand for people looking to volunteer at this time. It's about 10 times our normal traffic to parts of the site. While our Covid-19 section includes advice on the ways people can volunteer right now, we also expect this advice to be updated soon in line with the First Minister's announcement mentioning the setting up of a ‘central point’ for volunteers to help the NHS and locally.”

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