Banburyshire villagers come together to help NHS with cakes, handmade 'scrub' bags and deliveries for local vulnerable people in community

Kindness runs through the heart of village life in Hook Norton.

Dozens of Hook Norton residents have come forward to join several support groups to help the elderly, vulnerable and NHS staff since the government ordered coronavirus lockdown.

The group, Hooky Neighbours, has seen a surge in members wanting to come forward to help residents with shopping, picking up prescriptions and attending hospital appointments for cancer treatment.

An NHS cakes volunteer group has also been set up with 12 residents regularly producing treats throughout the week which are then delivered to hospitals in the area for staff to enjoy.

Rizpah Shires, deputy head of English at Wykham Park Academy, isdrivinga cancer patient to and from her hospital appointments.

Another resident, so moved by the plight of NHS staff, has started a group producing masks and 'scrub' bags made from donated bedsheets and duvet covers for nurses, doctors and care home staff.

Michelle Dix, a founding member of the Hooky Neighbours group which was set up two years ago, said the willingness to come together as a community and help at this time is a reflection of the ethos of the village.

She said: ‘’We ask ourselves, what do people need and how can we help?

‘’Everyone that gets involved and helps always leaves with a smile on their face and comments on how much they’ve enjoyed helping someone.’’

Hilary Shires, aged 79, has been making two cakes a week during thelockdown for NHS staff.

The number of volunteers in the Hooky Neighbours WhatsApp group has swelled from 30 to 73 in the last two to three weeks.

Teacher Rizpah Shires, deputy head of English at Wykham Park Academy in Banbury, is a member of the group and drives a cancer patient to and from her hospital appointments for blood tests and chemotherapy.

Miss Shires, who has lived in Hook Norton for 15 years, will also take requests for help with shopping and prescriptions.

She said: ‘’Hook Norton is a friendly village and one which cares about its residents. As public sector workers, we are all in it together. As a teacher I feel a sense of duty to help our wonderful NHS.

Cakes made by members of the Hooky Neighbours group for NHS workers

''This is also an opportunity for people to show how kind they are. We are all indebted to the NHS. My partner Derek has Parkinson's and he has a consultant that he sees along with a nurse and a physiotherapist.

''He wouldn't be able to function without the NHS and in another country the drugs that he takes would not be provided. The care from the NHS is faultless.

‘’The residents we help are very grateful and I’m grateful to Sylvia Thomas, principal at Wykham Park, for adjusting the rota to allow me to help when needed.’’

Hilary Shires, aged 79, has lived in the village for 10 years and has been making two cakes a week since the lockdown started. Her daughter, Rizpah, has delivered the cakes to Horton Hospital and John Radcliffe Hospital.

Michelle Dix, a founding member of the Hooky Neighbours group

Mrs Shires said: ‘’I’ve made tea loaves and sponges which everyone likes.

‘’The NHS staff are doing such a fantastic job and doing dangerous work while I’m at home. Making a cake allows me to play a small part in saying thank you to them. The canteens and shops in the hospitals have shut and a piece of cake will help to keep their spirits up.’’

Bethan Dennick, aged 51, is a member of Hooky Neighbours and recently spotted a message from a nurse on social media asking for a 'scrub' bag.

'Scrub' bags are used to hold uniforms of medical staff and the message stated that it needed to be made from a cotton that can be washed at 60 degrees, a temperature known to kill off bacteria, viruses and remove stains.

It prompted Mrs Dennick, who works in customer service at Blenheim Palace, to place a post on social media asking for unwanted cotton pillowcases and duvet covers and to bring out her sewing machine.

Around 150 orders for 'scrub' bags have been placed in the last three days from John Radcliffe Hospital, a care home and a health centre in Chipping Norton. Masks have also been ordered and Mrs Dennick has several local volunteers to help her.

Bethan Dennick and her daughter, Tabitha

She said: ‘’None of us (the volunteers) are doing this for recognition. Lots and lots of people are doing their part to help in any way that they can because it’s the right thing to do.

"There are so many lovely people in the village doing such good work to support and appreciate the wonderful key workers. It makes you appreciate where you live.’’