Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for the electricity distribution network that is powering homes, hospitals and supermarkets across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire during the pandemic, has donated more than 1,480 hours of volunteer time over the past four weeks to actively support charities and organisations across the region.
The electricity network operator made available more than 70 of its apprentices and graduate trainees, who are not yet able to actively work on its network, to support a range of charities including Age UK (Bradford, Selby, North and South Tyneside), Barnsley Council Safer Stronger Communities, the Deaf Blind Society, FareShare UK, Trussell Trust, Red Cross, Skill for People (Redcar), Leeds Community Foundation, NHS England, Hull 4 Heroes and Learning Partnerships (Leeds). Each day around 50 of them have been actively working in local communities across the region.
Ross Calvert a craft apprentice based in Middlesbrough has been helping Hartlepool charity Poolie Time Exchange. Over recent weeks Ross has been delivering emergency grocery supplies to vulnerable residents in the town. Ross said: “The reaction from the people I’ve helped has been amazing and it’s an incredible feeling when you know you’re making such a difference for people who really need it. You can see their relief at not having to worry where their next meal is coming from – as well as having a friendly face to talk to. Doing this has made me decide that I want to do more volunteering when the pandemic is over.”
Stephen Picton of Poolie Time Exchange said: “Ross has been a god send to us, he is an honest lad, and so polite. He’s worked five days a week and not just doing deliveries; we have emergency families that need help and Ross has been on hand to fill bags of groceries ready to go out. We are so happy that Northern Powergrid let us have him as a volunteer. If all your employees are like Ross then you have a good squad!”
Follingsby-based apprentices Stephen Turnbull and Jack Marshall joined forces with Shiremoor-based apprentice, Cameron Mather and Penshaw-based foundation degree trainee James Hunter to support Age Concern Tyneside South. The team supported the charity’s shopping service which includes delivering food and collecting shopping lists for the following day for local people. Stephen Turnbull said: “Volunteering has made me feel like I’ve helped out in a small way and I’m grateful to Northern Powergrid for letting me do this. I’ve helped elderly residents to stay home and safe from the virus and even though our chats were brief and from a distance when we delivered food, you could tell that they really lifted their spirits. I hope that someone would do the same if it was my grandparents who were alone and needed help.”
Grahame Cassidy, chief officer at Age Concern Tyneside South, thanked Northern Powergrid saying: “Your volunteers are doing an amazing job, helping us deliver over 350 shops a week.”
Beth O’Doherty the charity’s community development officer added: “Demand for support has rocketed during the pandemic, but the additional hands have meant we have been able to answer every request. Stephen, Jack, Cameron and James have been truly magnificent! Their attitude and application to the task has been exemplary. We could not deliver the level of service to our community of older people without this help.”
Ben Murphy a craft apprentice in York helped elderly neighbours in his local community in Eastfield, Scarborough. Ben supported local couple Graham and Angela Critchley who needed help with shopping, picking up prescriptions and collecting specialist feed for owls they breed for the Barn Owl Society. Ben said: “Being able to help out was very rewarding. I enjoyed it and it was good to know that I was doing something constructive to help.”
Graham Critchley said: “My wife and I are both in our 70s and have health problems. During our lockdown Ben has been our only help, doing our shopping, paying bills, collecting our medication, doing gardening and travelling to get the specialist food we need for the barn owls. I would like to say how thoughtful and kind Northern Powergrid is for allowing its employees to give their time and help ourselves and others during such a scary and dreadful time.”
James Higgins, a craft apprentice based in Keighley, has been helping out at Cora’s View Farm in Hainworth. James has been supporting the day-to-day running of the farm by bottle feeding lambs, feeding livestock, repairing dry stone walls and fencing and operating farm machinery. James said: “I need to be busy and now is the time when we need to help others.”
Farm owner Andy Belford said: “It was reassuring during these difficult times that help is available locally from such a competent and well-mannered young man like James. He has eased day-to-day life on the farm during these busy and hard times.”
Andy Bilclough, Northern Powergrid’s director of field operation, said: “Throughout the pandemic we are playing a vital role powering peoples’ lives - but our reach during these challenging times has also gone beyond our cables, power lines, substations and key workers.
“Thanks to the support of our superb apprentices and graduate trainees we’ve been able to support customers and the communities we’re part of that are especially vulnerable at this time.
“We’re incredibly proud of what Ross, Stephen (P), James (H), Cameron, Jack, Ben, James (H) and Stephen (T) have achieved alongside their fellow colleagues. They’ve stepped up to be there to support our customers when they need us most which is exactly what being part of Northern Powergrid is all about.”
Northern Powergrid also supports customers who may be more vulnerable through its free Priority Services Register. Any customers who may need additional advice or support due to their medical circumstances, or are currently ‘shielding’ in line with government and public health advice, may wish to consider joining by visiting northernpowergrid.com/cares or calling 0800 169 2296.
The network operator, which is carrying out necessary works and repairs to keep its network safe and reliable for customers, is reminding people that they should only approach its teams in an emergency – and always maintain social distancing. Anyone needing support can contact Northern Powergrid 24/7 on social media (Facebook or Twitter @NorthPowergrid) or by calling 105. Its website also provides information and advice to support customers if they need to report a power cut.
To find out more about how Northern Powergrid and how its people are powering the region during the pandemic visit northernpowergrid.com/coronavirus or follow the network operator on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.