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Forres Area Community Trust is working hard to keep local folk connected through the winter lockdown

By Garry McCartney

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Scotland Loves Local High Street Heroes Award-winners, FACT.
Scotland Loves Local High Street Heroes Award-winners, FACT.

A DEVELOPMENT group is working hard to keep local folk connected through the winter lockdown.

Forres Town Hall, AKA Forres Area Community Trust’s (FACT) headquarters, has been closed since March, but its staff and volunteers are still busy with its befriending, pick-up and IT assistance services.

FACT project officer Lorretta Oliphant does not think the town hall will welcome visitors again any time soon.

She said: “We miss seeing everyone but we are still here to help with IT assistance and support through telephone befriending, online apps and messages. If you need help, please give us a ring on 01309 674 388 or email info@forresarea.org. We will get back to you as soon as we can.”

The trust’s Forres Online service is currently operating remotely, offering help with laptops, tablets and smartphones. Assistance is also available with job searches, CVs and Universal Credit claims. Basic digital sessions for the long term unemployed offer support with the internet, email and social media. Under the Scottish Government’s Connecting Scotland initiative, Forres Online received 10 devices and free connectivity to allocate to adults who have no access to the internet. Two devices and free connectivity for a year are still to be allocated. Email janice@forresarea.org to nominate someone for the support.

“We offer e-drop-ins,” said Lorretta. “We can support you and your device virtually via Zoom and Team Viewer, so why not give it a try?”

She added: “Now more than ever, it is vital people have access to the internet to stay in touch, informed and safe.”

FACT activity sessions at the town hall are unable to re-start until group meetings are allowed again.
FACT activity sessions at the town hall are unable to re-start until group meetings are allowed again.

The Cameron Project, a befriending service for people living in the Forres area, is ongoing. Telephone befrienders keep in regular contact to make sure members have what they need.

“It is hoped we can restart some of our previous activities in the near future,” said Lorretta. “But the project is working well. We have several volunteers matched to folk in need of support, especially those in isolation.”

The Cameron Project and Active Minds Moray is also working on an online video (or DVD on request) showing a series of gentle seated exercises.

FACT’s shopping and pharmacy pick-up service is supporting isolated and vulnerable people in need of extra help.

The group also runs an emergency food larder for anyone in need. It is open from Monday to Wednesday from 11-11.30am. It can also make referrals for food parcels to Moray Food Plus. Ring 01309 674388 for further details.

And the trust is organising ‘Back Home’ boxes for people who live alone who have just been discharged from hospital.

Lorretta said: “We hope to have donations of 30 inch square knitted or crocheted knee blankets to put in the boxes. We are also looking for wool to give to volunteers making up the blankets. They can be dropped off at the town hall on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, from 11-11.30am or we can collect them by arrangement.”

She added: “The town hall is very quiet at the moment due to the current restrictions but we do have staff on the phone in the mornings on weekdays. There is also the answer machine which is checked regularly.”

Finally, FACT is setting up an online hall booking system via its website offering availability details for hiring rooms and planning events. Find out more at www.forresarea.org

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