'Good Morning Antrim' rises to COVID challenge

THE Family Caring Centre was established in Rathenraw, Antrim back in 1985 with a clear goal in mind.

Its mission was to provide training, information, advice and childcare services to families in the area who were suffering from social deprivation as a result of deteriorating housing and high unemployment.

The Centre has been successfully providing this support through a range of services which have been continuously developed over the years as a response to the changing needs. In general, over 250 families benefit from the range of services - which is a remarkable achievement.

The Centre is a not for profit, charitable foundation committed to helping those in need. With the dedication of their volunteers, staff members, and partners, they simply strive to improve the lives of everyone who needs help within the community.

During the COVID-19 pandemic they have had to suspend many services including First Steps Creche, The Learning Zone ‘IT’ Suite, Mental Health Support Group and room-use by various counselling organisations including Nexus and Lifeline.

Fortunately however, the Good Morning Antrim telephone and alert service, funded by the Public Health Agency, has continued to flourish in the face of the coronavirus challenge.

“Due to the very nature of the service, which is aimed at anyone in the community who is feeling vulnerable and isolated due to physical or mental health issues, we can continue to provide this much needed service,” said Louise Goodman.

“The telephone first checks on the person’s well-being, offers a friendly chat and signposts where necessary to other organisations. Calls are provided Monday to Friday every week.

“Good Morning Antrim has been providing calls since 2008 and is very much supported by Volunteers. It is these Volunteers who have enabled the service to continue and grow and whose dedication and commitment should be commended.

“By then end of April we will have provided almost 2,000 calls to over 150 people across Toome, Randalstown, Antrim, Parkgate, Templepatrick and Crumlin. As the pandemic continues these figures continue to increase.

“We have also retrained and redeployed staff to support the GMA service and due to technology this service can be provided from the safety of their own homes. Staff have also been redeployed to manage the high volume of incoming calls from members of the community who are seeking guidance with regards to prescription and grocery collections and deliveries and also signposting towards local Food Banks.

“The Family Caring Centre office number was diverted to staff mobiles back in March and our service continues to evolve including the recruitment, management and redirection of new and potential Volunteers which brings about linked up working so the community can work together and provide support where it’s needed.

“With the very early application of ‘Sense Reason and Calm’ to a very exceptional situation we have developed strong working relationships with various individuals and groups. Working in collaboration, we have achieved an effective response to Covid-19 which is sustainable and should serve our community throughout the pandemic.

“Journey Church ‘We Serve’ Project have been doing an amazing job working in the community, from the outset and utilising many Volunteers, putting themselves at risk to provide much needed prescriptions and groceries to our local community.

“Care in the Community managed by Volunteer Belinda McVeigh, who has demonstrated incredible commitment and responded very quickly to COVID-19. Belinda has set up a local Food Donation Bank which is situated in Greystone Community Centre.

“Councillor Paul Dunlop has been instrumental in bringing all these services together, to work in partnership and going above and beyond to help his local community.

“The Family Caring Centre with its numerous years of experience working in the heart of the community are very proud to support these groups. Due to funding received from the Community Foundation NI and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council we have been able to provide financial support to Care in the Community Food Bank and Volunteers.

“Whilst we are unable to plan for a major event to celebrate our 35-year anniversary, we will acknowledge the VE Day 75 Year Celebrations on the May 8. We have made a funding application to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and are working on a ‘pack’ which contains an Activity Booklet, Self-Isolation Survival Kit and a Boxed Cupcake provided by Antrim Community Choir.

“It is the objective of Good Morning Antrim to reduce isolation and disconnection and promote good physical and mental health. With this in mind and adhering to Covid-19 guidelines, in good humour we will be delivering a ‘Pack’ to those associated with Good Morning Antrim and who are living within the former Antrim Borough Council areas.

“Should anyone wish to join or refer to the Good Morning Antrim service please get in contact. Stay safe and take care.”

Good Morning Antrim can be reached at 02894 464619 or email

goodmorningantrim@

familycaringcentre.co.uk

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