COMMUNITY spirit is alive and well in the wake of the pandemic as thousands join together to offer support.

Mutual Aid Winchester was set up on March 15 as a way to coordinate help for vulnerable people.

Since then nearly 3,000 people have signed up to share information, volunteer help, or ask for it if they are in need.

The group is about neighbours and community members looking out for each other to help contain the spread of the virus and support those most at risk.

Help has included offering essential items, picking up groceries, running errands, making calls, or just offering a friendly voice on the phone if people are lonely.

Clare Huggett-Smith, from the group, said: “We’ve had some very satisfying examples of the community we’ve created being able to reach out and support other residents in the city.

“We have been networking with established community groups as well as the local council and volunteer service. We want to tap into the existing support networks and make sure that the help we offer is as useful as possible during this time of crisis.”

The group has helped a number of people aged over 70 by collecting prescriptions and dropping them on their doorstep so that they are able to self isolate at home.

Neighbours have also become friends in the wake of the group being set up, with Clare saying that one woman connected with her elderly neighbour for the first time.

The neighbour was able to get the prescription he needed, and she provided him with a home-cooked meal that evening, since then they have been regularly in touch on the phone.

“Several people have contacted us saying how reassuring they find it that we are there to help and it has made them feel less isolated and alone,” Clare said.

“One elderly Winchester resident with multiple health issues and no family support was extremely anxious. We made contact with her and the volunteer managed to calm her down and explain how we can help her, she knows that we are not just for physical help with shopping, prescriptions but appreciates the emotional connection and support the group can offer.

“She will be a regular user of the group volunteers and will require assistance through this crisis which we’re very happy to support.”

The group has also been in touch with adult children of elderly Winchester residents in order to arrange ongoing support which they are unable to provide as they do not live in the area.

To become a part of the group search ‘Winchester Mutual Aid’ on Facebook or email

Other groups for the wider area have also been set up, including Hampshire COVID-19 Support Group, along with smaller groups by neighbours and friends in towns and villages.