A FRIENDLY ’army’ of nearly 200 volunteers has pledged that no-one in Chepstow and the surrounding area will be left to fend for themselves in the current ’lockdown’.

The Facebook group ’Chepstow Covid 19 Helping Group’ was started by Helen Child Villiers on March 15 with the aim of co-ordinating efforts between a close-knit group of 20 to 30 people. It now has 186 members - the youngest a 16-year-old dog walker - covering Chepstow town, Beachley, Bulwark, St Arvans, Itton, Howick, Sedbury, Mathern, Pwllmeyric and Langstone."We’re also supporting similar groups in Devauden and Tintern so that no-one is missed out," said Helen.The volunteers can help with picking up shopping, collecting medicines and prescriptions, posting mail, dog-walking or even just offer a friendly chat!"Basically anyone that asks for our help will get it - and the support we’ve received has been phenomenal," she said.Each area has a co-ordinator with an individual 01291 contact number which has been set up by Transition Chepstowm while Chepstow Town Council is offering £2,000 of fudning.Over the last seven days most households in and around Chepstow will have received a leaflet with information about the group and the contact details of their local co-ordinator. It’s a free service. There’s no delivery fee and no volunteer will ask for money other than to cover the cost of purchases.The service will run for as long as it’s needed.Helen set the ball rolling after noticing how many individuals were offering their help on local community news pages."I felt this could become confusing and that we needed a central point of contact," she said."Those who are self-isolated, like myself, for health reasons, are taking care of the admin side from home."We don’t need any more volunteers at the moment because we have to be very careful that scammers try to get involved.“Obviously the money side is difficult - we want to avoid cash changing hands as much as possible. Ideally people will pay the volunteers online via Paypal or bank transfer.“A lot of trust is involved. We’ve set up rigorous systems - job sheets and so on.“As an added protection for our clients, we will only be dealing with payments up to a maximum of £30.“One idea people might want to consider is to buy a gift card online that would cover purchases from Tesco. We don’t want to borrow debit cards if we can possibly avoid it but it’s maybe a risk some people will have to take.”Tesco and some local businesses have told the group they would be prepared to go to the wholesalers direct in order to ensure supplies.“One of our volunteers has designed and printed ID cards, with lanyards donated by Keith Brews of Affinity Events The leaflets were donated by Warren Black of Primitive Studios Ltd.“And Jude Langdon at MCC has been tremendous - making sure we have what we need and are operating with the correct procedures.“There is such a lot of goodwill involved in all this.“It’s something I’ve even experienced personally.“My two children – aged four and 12 – have birthdays next month and the youngest was wondering, because I’ve been forced to self-isolate, if I’d still be making a nice birthday cake. As soon as friends heard that, the offers flooded in to provide me with the ingredients!”Meanwhile, a local resident, Chris Robinson, who has already benefited from the scheme wrote: “At the start of our 12-week isolation the uncertainties about how we’d cope got us panicking.“The group and its members managed to reassure us and calm me down and have since gone on to provide some very real and practical assistance.“We recenty moved to Garden City and to receive such ‘uncommon kindness’ from people that don’t know us has been extremely humbling. We will be forever grateful.”You can contact the group via: facebook.om/ChepstowHelpers