A COMMUNITY aid group is winding down and leaders have thanked the many volunteers who they say have provided vital support throughout the crisis.

Bedale Covid-19 Mutual Aid was set up at the start of the lockdown and has helped scores of people across the town and outlying villages, backing up existing charities and groups and offering invaluable support and assistance to ensure people were not left isolated or struggling.

Now as government restrictions are eased and calls to the helpline have reduced, the group is scaling down operations.

But it is maintaining a limited helpline which will be monitored between 11am and 1pm every day in case of emergencies and to respond to need.

Co-ordinator Brian Cook said the group had been overwhelmed by the offers of help and the work of volunteers who had come forward during the crisis.

He added: “Just one example of this is the day after lockdown Stephen Hall, owner of Hall’s Fish and Chip Shop in Bedale, contacted us to say he wanted to offer free meals to the most needy in town which would need to be delivered by our volunteers.

“Rather than publicise the offer and risk being overwhelmed, the group identified a growing number of mostly elderly beneficiaries and families qualifying for free school meals who without free fish and chips might otherwise have no hot meals.

“Initially deliveries were made by different volunteers but at the end of April, retired policeman David Oakes offered to take over all deliveries of the meals five days a week.

“In early May the Hummingbird Café in Bedale offered free soup and Dave delivered that too.

“At the peak, he was delivering to 57 people a week.

“Now, after three months and hundreds of free meals, the last deliveries will be made on June 27.

“Stephen and Dave are just one shining example of the generosity, kindness and dedication which has been shown by so many of our volunteers and administrators during the crisis.”

He added: “Requests for help have now declined to a level where we feel that we can start to wind down operations, but we won’t be disbanding.

“The helpline on 01677-455065 will remain live and we’ll be ready to spring into action again if, heaven forbid, we are hit by a second wave of the virus.”

The county council also pledged last week to continue supporting the most vulnerable who continue to shield due to underlying health conditions.