A Thank You to Cheshire’s Heroes
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 April 2020
Thank You to the lifesavers and the dancers, the charity champs and the singers, the philanthropic visionaries and the people keeping us and our families safe, for giving your all to Cheshire.
Sister and trainer in accident and emergency, Macclesfield Hospital
Donna Rees was made for this. The 47-year-old from Congleton was already spending her days at the medical coalface before coronavirus hit – not only co-ordinating Macclesfield Hospital’s busy Accident and Emergency but also training staff for one of the most challenging of hospital departments.
This training has become even more crucial with constantly shifting guidelines, essential preparation for the anticipated increase in patient demand and the need for practice drills in such unprecedented circumstances. All of her time at work, like her colleagues, is spent in full personal protective equipment, working more hours and staffing two separate A&E areas – one for Covid-19 patients and another for those without the disease.
“Working on the frontline, I am proud to be a nurse in A&E and hopefully able to make a difference,” says Donna. “Both by using my skills and knowledge with teaching and by directly caring for poorly patients. I feel more rewarded by being able to ensure the frontline staff are having further training in order to enable them to deal with the increasing demands on the service due to Covid-19.
“I do feel an element of fear coming into work but we are in full PPE, with thorough training in place to protect ourselves. This is what we come to work for as A&E nurses – being on the frontline and helping people who are very poorly and often frightened themselves. It is a privilege to be able to help at this very unsettled time.
“When co-ordinating a shift, it is a little more challenging as there are two very separate areas to monitor and support.
But the staff are working so hard and applying themselves very professionally to this task. Working in full PPE is hot and uncomfortable at times, but obviously essential. Having two separate A&E areas also presents some challenges but we are managing this well, along with keeping up to speed with guidelines as they are updated.”
Despite the daunting tasks being thrown at her and her colleagues, Donna is focusing on the positives.
“The teamwork shown throughout the department and Trust, staff volunteering to come and help on the frontline to support us, and the upskilling of staff we have achieved has been something to be proud of.
“My friends and family are proud of me too but understandably frightened about me working on the frontline.
“I don’t have the same level of fear, having a better understanding of the risks, so I do all I can to reassure them.”
Described by colleagues as one of life’s good eggs, Donna always goes above and beyond, and not just in her day job. Last year, she chose to spend her annual leave volunteering at a hospital treating facial burns victims in Ethiopia.
THE PHILANTHROPIST ENTREPRENEUR
Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville has opened the doors of his two Manchester hotels to non-paying customers. The pundit-turned-successful businessman has given over Hotel Football at Old Trafford and the newly launched Stock Exchange in Manchester city centre to provide free beds to health workers on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis. The two sites have been closed temporarily, with their 176 rooms offered to support healthcare professionals from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.
Both sites are owned by GG Hospitality, the restaurant and hotel group founded by Neville and fellow former footballer Ryan Giggs. The move has not only given healthcare workers a safe, comfortable, welcoming place to stay after long and challenging shifts working to save lives, but it also has safeguarded the jobs of GG Hospitality staff – the company announced no member of staff would be made redundant or put on unpaid leave.
GG Hospitality CEO, Winston Zahra, says: “We are living in unprecedented times and we have taken these decisions in the most responsible way possible. In a way that supports our team members while also extending further support to the wider community and ensuring our business is stronger when things get back to normal.”
THE CHARITY CHAMP
Carl Lamptey isn’t your average fundraiser. Six years ago his wife Sarah passed away, aged 36, in the comfort of East Cheshire Hospice after her cancer returned. She had spent the final years of her life trying to raise funds for the hospice. When Carl heard how the charity-funded service faces £1 million losses this year because of cancelled fundraising events due to the coronavirus crisis, he immediately wanted to help and carry on his wife’s legacy.
Carl launched fundraising campaign Act of Kindness, calling on Cheshire footballers to get behind the hospice and donate what they can. “When the hospice said they were due to lose £1m, I was mortified,” says Carl. “To this day I still believe the hospice got us an extra six months with Sarah, because she was so pumped about the fundraising events they got her involved with.” Since 2014, his fundraising group Team Rainbow – named after Sarah’s love of rainbows – has raised £54,000 for the hospice. He says: “I’m a big United fan and I thought what better way to raise the £1m than through rallying our footballers? It would be a great act of kindness and I know there are at least 24 big-name players living in East Cheshire. Our hospice is the second least-funded in the country, yet Cheshire is one of the richest counties. We can raise that money.”
When Jack Makin decided to swap ski instructing at Manchester’s The Chill Factore for a career in the police force, it made rural Cheshire a better place to live. As a PCSO with Cheshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Unit he tackles problems such as poaching, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour. Now the 30-year-old is fighting the effects of coronavirus.
Jack spends his days encouraging and keeping the public informed about the importance of staying at home, checking in on isolated people who may be struggling through the pandemic and being a reassuring presence in small communities. He has also been making crucial deliveries for NHS staff, including providing water for frontline medics at Macclesfield Hospital.
“I was pleased to have been able to help in a small way,” says Jack, who lives in Winsford with paramedic wife Laura and their labrador-cross Molly. “Currently nurses must drink from single-use, disposable bottles so it is very important the deliveries get to them.
“We’ve been lucky with the local community so far, thankfully, because most people are sticking to the advice. If we have had to approach people, they have been very understanding. It is so important people do listen to what we say – this can be a matter of life and death.
“We also need to keep up our usual work: crime doesn’t stop because there is a pandemic. We patrol empty, vulnerable buildings and isolated sites to make sure everything is secure and safe.”
THE FRODSHAM BOPPER
Fitness instructor Janet Woodcock is making a song and dance about things – in the very best of ways. The 54-year-old has encouraged her street, Springbourne, in Frodsham, to come out of their homes at 11am each day to distance dance together for 10 minutes. She came up with the idea after one of her neighbours said she was missing her exercise class.
“It’s simple stuff, but it’s about people moving, seeing one another and having fun,” says Janet. “For some it’s the highlight of their day, it’s nice to get people out in the fresh air.
“We always start with the Neighbours theme tune because the words are so fitting. The way it’s brought us all together is just fabulous. It is heart-warming to see how it’s helped people.”
Five-year-olds to elderly residents join in and their dancing to Tom Jones and Abba has taken social media by storm, attracting a global audience. What the cameras don’t show is once the 11am session has passed, Janet holds yoga sessions for those who want to stay supple.
“It’s given us enjoyment, something positive to think about and, perhaps more importantly, we are getting to know one another.
“We’re hoping this connection will carry on long after all of this.”
THE LIFELINE TO FARMERS
Lead chaplain for Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy
When Sharon Mayer’s husband died of pancreatic cancer in 2006 she, unsurprisingly, felt lost. It was the support of Keith Ineson at Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy that helped her through. When she was made redundant, Keith helped again. When a position came up to help on the Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy team, it was a simple decision for Sharon.
“I knew how valuable the support the service gives is, because it was so valuable to me,” says Sharon. “Keith was there, in a very gentle non-intrusive way, popping in to chat, long after other people had returned to their lives. He carried on popping in to say hello for years after.”
Now, as lead chaplain for the service and alongside other members, Sharon provides support, advice and a friendly ear in a way only another farmer could appreciate. This can be to help make those big decisions that impact the future of a farm, financial issues, or simply listening. Her work has become even more important in the coronavirus era as pressure on farmers increases and an already isolated community is plunged into further potential loneliness. Sharon and her team have been out delivering food parcels, checking on people and providing a trusted ear in the crisis.
“The pressure farmers feel is something very unique to our community,” says Sharon. “As a farmer you are already isolated; your nearest neighbour may be several miles away. When you are in lockdown, this is compounded. There can be pressures on people’s mental health...the worry about being able to make enough money to live... and this can be very daunting. There is a high suicide rate among UK farmers and we are very aware of this. We had started a fabulous lunch group, which was helping to reach people we perhaps wouldn’t have reached before.
“We’ve had to put this on hold because of coronavirus, so it is essential we stay in touch. Delivering food parcels not only gives people vital interaction, but also a chance to check if everything is ok.
“I’m proud of the chaplaincy team who want to help in any way they can.”
Chief Executive Officer, Passion for Learning
Diane Clark has worked with children for more than four decades – in play and community work in Halton, as a primary school teacher, lecturer in health and social care and running a children’s home in London.
It was in 2011 she combined her experiences and founded Ellesmere Port-based Passion for Learning, an organisation promoting the power of play, fun and learning to help children with complex needs break down barriers and overcome social and emotional challenges to learning and literacy. The project started with one school, six volunteers and 18 children. Today there are more than 130 volunteers and more than 400 children.
Since the pandemic struck, and with the support of the Steve Morgan Foundation, Williams Family Foundation and Westminster Foundation, Diane has been spending her days driving around designated drop-off points at schools across Cheshire, providing resources for children and families to use at home. Everything from books – a staggering 11,000 were donated in just a few days – games, activity sheets, craft materials and play items are being delivered to local primary schools remaining open to support families in their communities. With the help of staff and volunteers, Diane and Passion for Learning are also supporting children they would normally see in schools for one-to-one sessions through letters and messages.
“I’m so proud of my team,” Diane says. “These are such challenging times and everyone is really pulling together to deliver resources, share information and keep the children in focus in all that we do.
“These are also incredibly challenging times for parents. Some of the children we work with will not have books at home or the access to any resources to support their learning. I have spoken to stressed parents who simply did not know how to keep their children occupied and then I have had families crying with joy because we have been able to supply them with activity packs to use with their children at home. It has been wonderful to see. The way people have pulled together is incredible.”
THE MENTOR AND ADVOCATE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Warrington youth club
When Dave McNicholl first joined Warrington Youth Club in 2009, it was helping 300 children a year. Today, there are more than 4,000 young people using its valuable services – whether this be one of the club’s hugely successful regular youth clubs held at their base at The Peace Centre, their mentoring services, or the Junction Gym, among many other things. It’s unsurprising, then that Dave and the expert team, whose primary drive is to support young people – and despite having to furlough 50 per cent of its staff – have stepped up during this unprecedented crisis.
While NHS keyworkers lead the fight against coronavirus, Warrington Youth Club are looking after their children, providing childcare and activities from babies up to teenagers. On top of that they’re also maintaining all of their essential work as well as holding sessions with those most in need, providing young people with contacts for youth workers in a bid to support good emotional health and wellbeing as well as maintaining vital safeguarding. They have also been livestreaming fantastic videos to create positivity for those feeling most isolated – hits to warringtonyouthclub.co.uk have increased by at least 250 per cent.
“The team have done a fantastic job,” says Dave. “The youth club is important to many and we’re proud to help our community.”
The big lockdown has brought out the best of Cheshire heart and spirit in community and business.
Chester Race Company has joined the newly launched Coordinated Community Response. The on-site Holiday Inn Express at Chester Racecourse is an official food drop-off point. The food will be given to West Cheshire Foodbank – members of the public can donate non-perishable food items – and Race Company members of staff are working with the organisation to ensure donations can be distributed to those in social isolation or crisis. They have also donated £1,000 worth of much-needed food items.
The drop-off is open from 9am to 9pm. westcheshire.foodbank.org.uk
Frodsham mindset coach Kay Woodburn, who usually helps high-achieving individuals, competitive athletes, and entrepreneurs master their mindsets, has poured all her neuro-science knowledge, her neuro-linguistic programming expertise and her compassion into creating a children’s book. Suzie Super Trouper, a free flip book for four to 10 year olds was written to help them navigate some of the emotions they are feeling as a result of the changes brought about by coronavirus.
“My aim is to equip parents with what they need to help their children get what they need, and to get families talking openly about how everyone is feeling,” says Kay.
The book is available at online.flipbuilder.com/abdf/pqki/mobile/index.html
Manchester-based sports brand Elissa & Stef has launched a crowdfunding project to raise money for vital PPE for NHS workers. The GlovesforNHSHeroes campaign aims to raise £200,000 to provide protective equipment for North West NHS healthcare workers looking after coronavirus patients and anyone helping to fight the disease, including care home workers, cashiers at supermarkets and pharmacy workers.
To support the cause, donate at crowdfunder.co.uk/glovesfornhsheroes
The lovely people at award-winning Forest Distillery, based in Macclesfield Forest, have adapted production and delivery to assist in the fight against coronavirus. The company, run by husband-and-wife team Karl and Lindsay Bond, usually produces high-end whisky and gin but the team has now put its skills, equipment and knowledge to use to produce hand sanitiser and is delivering in bulk to frontline services. They are also operating a service delivering wines, beers and spirits to people locally
using a contactless doorstep drop.