DORSET’S High Sheriff left Gillingham feeling overawed and inspired after meeting with the Covid Task Force and touring the town.

On Friday, September 4, George Streatfeild met with mayor of Gillingham Barry Von Clemens, town clerk Julie Hawkins and staff and volunteers from the scheme, which was set up to support residents during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

The High Sheriff was told of the town’s plans to continue its volunteer force, which was backed by more than 100 volunteers, in order to support the work of the medical centre and charities supporting the community.

This was followed by a walk around the town, meeting shop owners and experiencing a coffee from the recently opened cafe at The Slade Centre.

The group also visited the town’s Kindergarten ‘Topsie Rabbit’, which had stayed open with 30 children from the start of lockdown to the end of July.

The nursery accepted children from all over the town as other preschools had closed during the pandemic.

Following the visit the High Sheriff said: “I came away from Gillingham totally overawed and inspired by what had been achieved by the whole community.

“They ensured that no one was left isolated or without food, medicines or someone to whom they could talk. It is a remarkable credit to everyone - town council, volunteers and shop keepers - who all pulled together. It is an amazing story and one which needs to be told.”

As previously reported, the Covid-19 response in Gillingham started around the time lockdown was first announced, through the council sourcing volunteers and later launching a community engagement management team.

Volunteers were then stationed across 240 areas of Gillingham, tasked with helping vulnerable residents through assisting with shopping, delivering more than 120 prescriptions, walking dogs and just being there as someone to talk to.

The Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund awarded £2,425 to the council, to enable the volunteer scheme to be set up.

During his visit, Mayor Von Clemens said the High Sheriff was introduced to “community achievements”, including the task force’s partnership with the town’s outreach project Rendezvous.

He added: “It was a really great honour for the town to have the High Sheriff take the time to visit us and to see how we had coped with lockdown and to meet some of those who have volunteered. We had an enjoyable time showing him around our town.”