Lockdown may have driven local people apart - but community spirit has brought them closer than ever

RECENT weeks have seen some inspirational examples of communities coming together to help their most vulnerable members during the pandemic.

Though COVID-19 has forced people to socially distance, it seems that the shared threat has brought people closer together.

Across Antrim, Templepatrick, Crumlin, Parkgate and Randalstown a true community spirit has shone brightly in dark times.

And Una Johnston has revealed this week that the same spirit is alive and well in Toome.

“I’m sure you've gathered by now, I am so proud of our community in ‘normal’ times but they have really stepped up to the mark,” she said.

“They have united under the banner of ‘Caring for Your Community’ and the local effort has been facilitated by TIDAL from Toome House.

“The two local GAA football clubs Erins’ Own GAC and St Ergnat’s GAC may be rivals on the football field - but they have come together to score goals for their community.

“Together they have been supporting the local pharmacy delivering daily prescriptions to both ends of the Parish and further as well as collecting and delivering groceries.

“The wives and other volunteers walk dogs, make daily phone calls to check in on the vulnerable and cook homemade dinners.

“South Antrim Community Transport, who normally bring elderly people to our community building for meals each week are now collecting the government food parcels and the homemade meals and delivering them.

“We are working together with the Pharmacy, GP, SVP to ensure no one slips through the net.

Groups are offering other practical help too.

“Last weekend a litter pick was organised by Cargin GAC. Since that, Moneynick Primary School,” said Una.

“We continue to deliver classes through Zoom with GroundWork NI who provided compost bags, seeds and instructions for families to keep busy and learn how to ‘grow your own’.

“The core group of volunteers in Duneane Allotment Garden, following social distancing rules, helped plant 350 window boxes funded by NIHE for their residents.

“Their gratitude was tangible last Saturday as they queued at the garden to collect them.”

The crisis has also helped locals fully appreciate the beauty of their town anew.

“The Jewel in our crown - The Canal Walk - is walked safely by hundreds daily either singularly or in families.

“It has been the subject of little stories and wonderful pictures as it is most certainly responsible for keeping people well and sane.

“Three years ago, when we opened The Lock Keepers Cottage, we received the Queen’s Award for Volunteering and a few weeks ago we received a letter from the office of President Higgins of Ireland.

“These are lovely acknowledgements of what a caring community really looks like.”

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