Huge numbers of selfless residents have stepped up to help isolated people cope with the Coronavirus pandemic according to Hastings Emergency Action Response Team (HEART).

Established by volunteers Kim Batty and Alastair Fairley, HEART has now seen over 1,000 people volunteer to help people with food shopping, collecting medicines, transport and even dog walking. 

HEART core team

HEART is now matching dozens of urgent requests for help with volunteers across the town. It is also working closely with Hastings Borough and East Sussex County Councils, the NHS, Hastings Voluntary Action, the Hastings Foodbank and a host of other organisations as part of the ‘Community Hub’. 

Call-outs have seen volunteers deliver urgent food supplies to an 80-year-old feeling ‘abandoned’ in a sheltered housing block; collect vital pharmacy medication for a blind pensioner; and reach out to dozens of older residents on GP lists to set up weekly food deliveries. 

But it’s still important to get the message out and 250 posters will soon be going up around the town to help information spread by word of mouth. Co-founder Kim Batty says: “If people need help, or know someone who does, just fill in a simple form on our website at www.hastingsheart.com. If they’re not online, or are elderly or vulnerable, call the Council’s helpline on 01424 451019”.

The large pool of volunteers that have risen to the challenge means that HEART can now look at a more long-term response – beyond the health crisis – to what happens next. It has been setting up micro-teams to identify what can be done now and in the future. The first step is to develop the website into a one-stop shop for matters of daily concern that are impacted by the pandemic, issues related to benefits, housing, jobs, business, and any other matters of importance to the Hastings community. Instead of having to visit multiple platforms, the idea is to have all the information clearly laid out in one place. 

But as Alistair points out, the long-term problems will be economic: “Hastings may have avoided being a hotspot for infection, but within weeks or months we will be dealing with an economic crisis and Hastings is not resilient as there is lots of poverty in the town.”

• You can help by donating to the new Hastings Relief Fund crowdfunder at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/hastings-relief-fund


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