Uttlesford joins national efforts of viral kindness

PUBLISHED: 08:59 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:07 20 March 2020

R4U Councillor Petrina Lees, Uttlesford District Council deputy leader and portfolio holder for health and wellbeing. Photo: R4U.

R4U Councillor Petrina Lees, Uttlesford District Council deputy leader and portfolio holder for health and wellbeing. Photo: R4U.


Uttlesford residents are joining forces in the light of the new coronavirus pandemic, to help some of our most vulnerable communities.

A map of where in Elsenham the volunteers are based. Photo: Councillor Petrina Lees.A map of where in Elsenham the volunteers are based. Photo: Councillor Petrina Lees.

The latest initiatives across the district come as the #viralkindness campaign was launched last week and kicked off across the UK. It involves people giving postcards to their neighbours, in an attempt to help those who self-isolate. The cards contain the names and contact details of those who are offering their help for free, as well as what each volunteer can help with.


R4U Councillor Petrina Lees, deputy leader at Uttlesford District Council and portfolio holder for health, has been coordinating a campaign in her ward, Elsenham and Henham.

“I am going to coordinate a list of volunteers, who will help any folk in need if this pandemic takes off,” Cllr Lees posted last week on a local Facebook group.

She added: “I need a list of people who will help, message me your telephone number; a person from each street, who will deliver a note through the doors of that street to send information of how to get help to those who are not on Facebook. Please forward via email or telephone to anyone not on Facebook.”

More than 100 people have so far offered to help upon seeing her appeal – and the councillor has put together a map, showing where in Elsenham the volunteers are based.


Debbie Hasler from Great Dunmow set up a Facebook group called Dunmow and surrounding areas - pay it forward.

The group was inspired by a Braintree Facebook group and joined by “everybody in this crisis who is offering help” in order to “get the community together, as there are loads of people that are going to be self-isolating”.

A Facebook poll has been set up with a list of roads in Dunmow, so that people can pick the road they can help with - and thus let others know about it too.

“We have people dropping things off and picking up prescriptions of people. I have a local lady happy to help me print some papers and leaflets for free.

“We had a thousand people in three days which is amazing,” Debbie said,

“My dad has Parkinson’s and this kind of person is very vulnerable. The elderly go to the supermarket and there is nothing left, so they are deprived of necessities.”

Debbie is concerned about vulnerable people potentially falling victims of crime.

She said: “My only issue is we need safeguarding rules, there are people out there who will take advantage of vulnerable people.”

Debbie wants to raise awareness among people to make sure they will not give any money or card details to anyone.


In Saffron Walden, businesswoman Michelle Wilkins is encouraging people to download a pre-written letter and post it through every letterbox.

The letter offers help and encourages those with smartphones to join a WhatsApp group for the street, so that it’s easy to keep in touch even if movement is restricted over time.

“I delivered letters to all my neighbours yesterday and within a matter of hours, nine people had offered to help look after our street. We now have two weekly online shops that we can tap into for our elderly residents or anyone self-isolating. Someone has offered to go and collect prescriptions. At least two older neighbours now feel cared for and included. It’s heart-warming,” Michelle said.

She thinks that the move will decrease the likelihood that some vulnerable people will be accidentally overlooked, and ensure that people who are self-isolating still receive the food and medication they need.

The letter put forward by Michelle can be downloaded from www.cinnamonletters.co.uk/one-big-family.

A spokesperson for Waffle+Co, a catering business, said: “We will be popping up in various local villages and providing a hot food takeaway service for the community. When customers come to the hatch with a can of beans, pasta, toilet roll or anything else in short supply, we will be giving them £1 discount off their meal and we will be taking the items to the food bank.”

Hart’s Books has also stepped in and offered a delivery service for self-isolators who can call them and pay on 01799 524 552.


In Newport, the local Nissa shop announced on its Facebook page, Newport Village Stores, that they will be delivering to vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic. The post read: “We can provide a FREE delivery service to any person in self isolation for food and other essentials OR any elderly person concerned about the virus who does not wish to leave their home during this time.”

The service is offered within a five-mile radius from 4pm daily – contact 01799 541 991 to find out more.

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