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Northern Ireland spirit goes above and beyond during coronavirus pandemic

The shop owner, a young fashion designer, a community collective... these are the people going above and beyond


Fashion designer Chloe Dougan

Fashion designer Chloe Dougan

Chloe Dougan wearing a face mask that she made herself

Chloe Dougan wearing a face mask that she made herself

Fashion designer Chloe Dougan

The spirit of Northern Ireland continues to shine as people throw open their doors to our NHS heroes and feed the elderly and vulnerable free of charge.

As we enter the second week of restrictions not seen since the war, individuals and businesses are going far beyond what was ever asked of them in peacetime.

A shop in the Tyrone town of Strabane delivered nearly 300 meals free of charge to elderly and vulnerable people in the area last week.

Vivo in the Ballycolman industrial estate was helped by a team of volunteers and donations of food from locals.

Owner Mark McDermott has modestly refused all requests for interviews but has praised the people of the town in a post on Facebook on Friday.

"Our town is actually amazing and once again the people of Strabane has put us on the map, local businesses working together, local donations, local volunteers, food banks being opened and local councillors all helping in whatever way they possibly can," he said.

"Personally this has never been about publicity and it would be wrong to take credit, so I have refused all interviews.

"This is about having each other's backs in a time of need. We are in this together and together we will beat this.

"Our wee town never disappoints and always has, and always will step up to the mark when needed."

Meanwhile, big-hearted Warrenpoint resident Maureen Keenan has offered up four empty properties as free housing for NHS staff, all located within a mile of Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

The six-bed houses are registered for multiple occupants complete with car parking permits.

In a plea for people to share her offer across social media, Maureen (right) said: "There are student nurses and doctors that are working for free to save our lives and some being forced to give up their tenancies.

"This is not right and houses shouldn't be lying empty."

Belfast-based fashion designer Chloe Dougan has also pitched in with a fundraiser to help keep our hard-pressed frontline NHS workers safe during the crisis.

Chloe's GoFundMe raised over £770 in its first 10 hours and at time of going to press exceeded its £1,000 target, standing at £1,264.

Asking people to put their hands in their pockets, Chloe said: "They are on the front line and are doing all they can for us so I encourage anyone who can donate anything big or small to help the cause and any sewers to help make scrubs, hats and masks."

The money will be used to supply fabric to the NI Scrubs Group, a collection of volunteers who have come together to help make much-needed protective equipment.

Also rising to the challenge is a Co Antrim community co-operative which has transformed itself into a dedicated Covid-19 support group.

The Glengormley Community Co-op has gathered a team of 20 volunteers to allow residents, especially the elderly and vulnerable, to access essential items and services while restrictions are in force.

It will help with delivering prescriptions from chemists and to source essential items for those who can't leave their own homes. They can be contacted on 07801 989917.

You can donate to Chloe's fundraiser by searching for "NI FUND FABRIC FOR SCRUBS ETC" on

Belfast Telegraph