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Coronavirus: Community shows solidarity as people rally to help vulnerable and elderly

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Drumarg committee members Donna Campbell, Mary Byrne, councillor Jackie Donnelly, Marianna Tennyson and Bernie McSorely with Rian Og

Drumarg committee members Donna Campbell, Mary Byrne, councillor Jackie Donnelly, Marianna Tennyson and Bernie McSorely with Rian Og

Drumarg committee members Donna Campbell, Mary Byrne, councillor Jackie Donnelly, Marianna Tennyson and Bernie McSorely with Rian Og

An Armagh-based community group has prepared care packages for distribution around the elderly and people with mobility issues.

It is the latest example of how communities are rallying together to help those most in need as the coronavirus spread begins to take a firm grip on everyday lives here.

Fears of panic-buying leading to shortages have left those most at risk concerned as supermarket shelves have been left empty.

For those who cannot get to the shops regularly or who are on a low income and limited to how much they can spend on groceries each week, it has become a real worry.

But more and more examples of good citizenship have been appearing as communities pull together in the face of adversity.

Members of Drumarg Community Association decided to show their support for their senior citizens and others in need of assistance by buying and delivering hampers in a gesture of neighbourly goodwill.

A spokesperson for the association said: "With all that is unfolding in our community at present and a lot of negative press regarding the old and vulnerable living in fear, it was a pleasure to deliver the hampers to those in need of a little helping hand this morning.

"Drumarg Community Association (DCA) took to the shops at the weekend and made hampers packed with essentials. This was a very rewarding experience for all involved and delivered to those who couldn't make it for various reasons.

"Should anybody within the community need anything feel free to contact any member of the committee. We also had great help from one of our younger residents; Rian Og gave up his play time to come in and gave his help."

Also over the weekend volunteers delivered more than 100 care packages to elderly and vulnerable people in the Carrickfergus area.

The Carrickfergus Defenders Flute Band launched the initiative on Sunday because of concerns the reports of bulk-buying were causing anxiety for some elderly people.

"We had pensioners in tears because they have been struggling and such a small gesture means so much to them," band secretary Marc Collins said.

"We all need to reach out to those in our own areas who need help the most."

Meanwhile, shopping centres are starting to do their bit to help the most vulnerable in society. Iceland Foods in the Kennedy Centre in Belfast announced that it will open from 8-9am from this morning for elderly customers only.

The wider public has been asked to "respect this hour" to allow older people to shop alone.

Centre manager John Jones said the initiative was launched due to increasing anxiety among older people.

"People want to help and there are lots of goodwill gestures around," he said.

"There seems to be a lot of panic-buying and we are trying to calm people down while reassuring them that the supply chain will continue.

"This is for those who feel vulnerable because of that anxiety."

The Park Centre in Belfast has also said that several of its stores will open from 8am to 9am daily from tomorrow for the elderly only.

Lidl became the latest store to announce special arrangements and will be implementing priority shopping hours for the elderly across all of its 39 stores here until further notice.

"We ask that the public respect this time period to allow more vulnerable customers to pick up the food and supplies they need," a company spokesperson said.

"Starting March 17, the mornings will run from 9am to 11am every day and will include prioritised queuing and additional assistance for our older customers.

"We may not be able to actively monitor this at all times as our store teams are required on checkouts and restocking shelves, so we kindly ask that customers respect this measure and plan their shopping trips around this time frame."

Schools have also joined the effort.

Ciara Rooney, head girl at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, has spearheaded a drive at her school to deliver parcels to pensioners in the area.

She said: "Last week when we started to see people buying in bulk I thought that would leave a lot of elderly people feeling anxious and scared.

"We have collected items to deliver on Monday to show them they are not alone."

Belfast Telegraph