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Forres Area Community Trust highly commended in the High Street Heroes Awards for ongoing support during pandemic

By Garry McCartney

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Forres Area Community Trust at the town hall with their certificates.
Forres Area Community Trust at the town hall with their certificates.

A local development group has been presented with an award for supporting the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Forres Area Community Trust (FACT) has been highly commended in the High Street Heroes Awards – run by the Scotland Loves Local Campaign and managed by Scotland’s Towns Partnership – which recognise the people, businesses and organisations who have gone above and beyond during the lockdown and reopening.

FACT director Joanna Taylor confirmed the Forres Town Hall-based team is “thrilled to be recognised”.

She said: “We accept this recognition on behalf of all the volunteers, staff and partners who have enabled us to help our community and those that are the most vulnerable at this time.

“Volunteers and staff stepped up to help those who needed support, working with a range of local businesses and organisations to meet the needs of our community. This is well-deserved for the work that was done, and is being done, in difficult circumstances.”

FACT’s Forres Online project offers two devices and free connectivity at the town hall to adults in the area. This year, Forres Online has continued to assist people with their devices, getting online, using apps, video calling, social media, using Zoom, TeamViewer, Discord, email and mobile telephone.

A FACT spokeswoman said: “Before the pandemic, digital technology was changing the way we do things. The outbreak and subsequent lockdown, shielding and isolation at home has accelerated the shift to all things digital.

“Older learners are particularly interested in ways to connect to friends and family digitally. Learning how to video call has been a lifeline to people who were not able to leave the house.

“Over the winter, video calling will continue to be vital to keep older people more connected.”

FACT also assists with tasks including Just Giving pages for charity events, dance videos, blogs and more. The project received 10 devices and free connectivity via the Connecting Scotland initiative and has allocated most to people with no access to the internet.

Drop-in sessions have also continued through the pandemic, with social distancing and safety measures in place.

Since March, FACT’S befriending project for older people has become a Covid-19 response, with 46 volunteers supporting folk in the community isolating or shielding. Face-to-face befriending and activities were replaced with telephone befriending, and over the course of the pandemic, 20 people were supported by regular telephone calls to help reduce their social isolation. These calls are continuing for those who still struggle to get out.

Volunteers shopped on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for vulnerable participants and the Forres Osprey Bus delivered it to their doors.

“We were fortunate to have regular drivers so that people were familiar with who was dropping the shopping off,” said a FACT’s spokesperson.

“We also collected prescriptions from the local pharmacies which were delivered too.”

Finally, FACT helped set up the Forres and Kinloss Community Food project as an emergency, temporary response for people who had been furloughed, made redundant, had income reduced income or suffered addiction and mental health issues.

“Many others were referred to the project,” said the spokesperson.

“They included large families struggling financially, children with special needs, those on benefits, folk with health and mobility issues, and the elderly.”

Care packages, food recovery donations and fresh vegetables supplemented the meals along with food vouchers to families in particular.

Food was packed and distributed twice a week via volunteers, drivers and FACT staff at the town hall. Many meals were pre-ordered from businesses and food bank, Moray Food Plus.

The project ran from May to September – the total number of three-course meals distributed was 1995, with 124 households benefitting.

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