Westbury Town Council responded quickly in March 2020 when the first Covid-19 lockdown was announced. Within a week, and ahead of the principal authority, the town council was packing and delivering food boxes to the vulnerable and those self-isolating in its community. Initially this was undertaken by town council staff who joined long queues to buy the supplies needed for food boxes. The council soon enlisted an army of volunteers to help pack and deliver food boxes, as well as checking on the welfare of those most vulnerable. This wonderful group of people coordinated by the council also walked dogs and collected prescriptions. When it became evident that the pandemic would be long lasting, local businesses and organisations stepped forward with offers of monetary donations, free food and emergency supplies. These were collected and re-distributed to those in need. Westbury Town Council also set up a neighbourhood help line with partners in the town, which was available to anyone who just wanted to hear a friendly voice.
The town council made several grant applications and was successful in securing grants further supporting those most in need. The council also approved additional grants to schools, to help them to provide children with school meals during the holidays. Working with schools, the council ensured the most vulnerable families received an Easter surprise and Christmas boxes. Staff and councillors spent a Saturday wrapping 100’s of gifted presents (some bought with the donated funds) to be distributed to the families by Westbury’s very own costumed “superheroes”.
The council had approved a grant for a new project known as Abraham’s Kitchen and named after Abraham Laverton. This was a town council staff initiative to help feed school children and their families during the holidays with a healthy meal in a community setting. Due to the pandemic, this had to change, and the staff soon came up with the idea to distribute a healthy food box and recipe, and staff secured in total £6,000 of grant funding for the project. The project aimed to encourage children to learn to cook with healthy ingredients. The positive results has driven staff to secure to an additional £4,000 meaning that the project can continue until at least early 2022.
The town council staff, councillors and volunteers have dealt and continue to deal with some distressing situations throughout the pandemic, as well as signposting people to other organisations better placed to provide the longer-term solutions needed. This has ranged from homelessness to people suffering from mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.
More widely, the town council as part of its Soapbox Derby and with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) worked with Lockheed Martin to deliver training workshops (having fun with STEM) to local schools. The feedback from teachers and pupils was both positive and encouraging.
The town council continued to work throughout the pandemic, keeping its officers available. The council soon had “remote” public meetings up and running (the first taking place in April 2020) and despite a number of teething problems, these meetings were well attended by councillors and the public. This allowed the council to continue its important work while keeping the public informed.
As the town council was unable to offer physical events, it used technology to its best advantage. For example, the Remembrance Sunday service was a virtual event that was pre-recorded and published on Remembrance Sunday just before 11am so Westbury residents could still mark this significant event. The council finished the year with an uplifting Christmas video – with the tale of the missing magical Christmas Light switch on button.
This work has had long lasting results with the volunteers setting up Westbury Area Network taking and providing a food bank and support network in Westbury. The community have seen the town council step up and become a primary point of contact for the town. We will continue to work hard for Westbury.
You can read more about the award here: www.andrewmurrison.co.uk/campaigns/andrew-invites-covid-heroes-nominations
7th October 2021