'We're just doing our bit to help out' - Celebrating Pontefract and Castleford's incredible volunteers and community heroes
As the first anniversary of lockdown approaches, we celebrate the incredible volunteers from across Pontefract and Castleford who have supported their communities through the pandemic.
“One person can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
It’s a simple motto, but one that has seen one Pontefract businessman earn his place in the heart of his community, after a year of going above and beyond to support those in need.
Bobby Singh runs BB Nevison Superstore and Post Office, and first began offering special deliveries to his vulnerable customers in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Speaking a year into the pandemic, Mr Singh says demand for support has never slowed.
He said: “There’s always people in need of support. There’s many people in trades that are still closed down and people that were on furlough or have lost their jobs.
“One person can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. We’re trying our best to do our bit.”
As well as offering support to vulnerable residents, staff at BB Nevison have opened a drop-off point for donations to Pontefract Foodbank, and hosted feel-good events including fancy dress days and singalongs, which they have shared on Facebook in an effort to help people smile.
Mr Singh said: “A lot of people have a positive attitude and we try to support their smiles in these challenging times.
“One of the massive positive aspects from these unfortunate times is that it’s brought out the best in people.
“It’s not just me. We could only do so much, but with the support of the community and our retail partners we’ve managed to make a bigger difference than we ever could have done on our own.
“That’s the best thing that’s come out of this, the genuine care has been amazing.”
But Mr Singh and his team are just one of many remarkable stories to have come out of the last 12 months.
This week marks a year since the first restrictions were introduced in the UK, a year of lockdown, loss and unimaginable personal struggles for so many people.
But it has also been a year of breathtaking resilience.
In March and April, families across the Five Towns took to their doorsteps as part of the national Clap for Carers campaign, which saw thousands of people applaud and cheer in support of NHS staff.
That same week, hundreds of people in the Five Towns began to offer their support to those in need in any way they could.
Featherstone-based musicians Pam and Peter Stone, who run music therapy business Keystone Keeping Older People Smiling, began performing in care home car parks, while Jenna Fan drew an audience of hundreds with her virtual singing sessions for all ages.
And staff at Pontefract Community Kitchen, which provides food to people in need, have urged people to continue doing their bit to help others.
Faced with the prospect of temporary closure during lockdown, staff at the charity teamed up with Pontefract Foodbank in the early months of the pandemic.
They expect demand to continue in the coming months.
Volunteer Ann Lancaster said: “When we went into the lockdown, we had to adapt. There’s such a high volume of people being fed due to furlough, unemployment and other unforeseen circumstances.
“We need charities, the community and food banks in the area to get together and make sure these people aren’t going hungry.
“It’s hard to say what the future will look like, and I think that’s the case for a lot of charities - they’re going to need lots of support coming out of lockdown, due to high amounts of people in crisis.”
Community heroes and volunteers all do their bit
Amid the concern and uncertainty of the last 12 months, there have also been a whole host of people giving others a reason to smile.
Residents of Pontefract’s Kingsway said their lives had “changed for the better” during lockdown, after a series of socially-distanced street parties and celebrations saw dozens of families get to know their neighbours for the first time.
And in March, a police officer was almost reduced to tears when she picked up a takeaway coffee at Junction 32’s Starbucks store to discover that a member of staff had left a message on her cup reading: “You are doing amazing, hang in there. Thank you!”
Seamstress Aileen Talbot gave plenty of people something to celebrate when she raised an incredible £1,000 for Wakefield Hospice with her handmade face masks, while Adrian Strang, who runs Cutskye Post Office, offered free deliveries of essential goods to vulnerable customers.
And Pontefract artist Rachel List drew international attention with her series of murals, which paid tribute to NHS staff and frontline workers for their sacrifices.