The Lord Mayor’s Community and Voluntary Awards 2021 have recognised the work of the city’s Covid Heroes who stepped up to help those most in need during what has been a difficult year for all.
The awards recognise the work of the voluntary organisations that continued to provide services throughout the city during the pandemic under the umbrella of the Cork City Community Response Forum.
The Overall Winner of the Lord Mayor’s Community and Voluntary Award 2021 is Friendly Call.
Part of Cork City Partnership, the organisation provides a befriending service to hundreds of older people throughout the city and also provides, restrictions allowing, a visitation service to its clients.
During the pandemic the number of volunteers working at Friendly Call rose from around 25 to over 70 and the number of daily calls to people in need rose from 220 to over 400.
Friendly Call Cork Development Worker, Cork City Partnership, Brenda Barry, said that up to March of last year, the organisation had around 25 volunteers that would come into the office on different days and cover the calls for that day. When Covid-19 hit, volunteers began working remotely and a lot more volunteers were recruited with 70 committed volunteers currently involved.
The volunteers ring the same people every day every week. Some are ringing 10 or 15 and others are at work so they might ring two of the same people so it’s a lovely check-in and we’d been encouraging people to get a bit of exercise too.
“That’s a huge issue as people have had serious falls at home because they weren't as active as before. There were also a lot of people stuck for shopping, especially in the first lockdown because they were petrified and afraid to leave their house.
“Some of the volunteers have been here since 2011 when we were established. The volunteers love it and the clients absolutely love it, and for many, it might be the only time in the day that their phone rings.
It’s so simple because it’s just a kind word and a bit of empathy and it’s lovely that they have someone just to touch base with and tell them their worries.
She said that they have also received calls from people overseas wanting to refer their family members “because they couldn’t come home and still haven’t been able to come home”.
She said that many people came on board to help when Covid-19 hit, including HSE staff, Cork city library staff, and other private companies.
“We have a minibus so we’ve also been bringing people to hospital appointments, vaccination centres, to get a Covid test, and to visit family in nursing homes.
We’ve also been able to link people in whether it’s for a public health nurse, Meals on Wheels, or a maintenance issue where I could mail in the details to the Council to be fixed.
The organisation has received funding from Cork ETB, and help from Tús community employment scheme, the HSE, Cork City Council, and Synergy Security in Mayfield.
Speaking about winning the overall award, she said: “We’re really thrilled to have won the overall award and the volunteers deserve this for all they’ve done for the year. Throughout the whole year, we’re talking about 120 volunteers in total that have been involved.”