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`What working-class community and cross-community looks like'

Foods parcels being prepared and distributed around west Belfast Picture Mal McCann.
Foods parcels being prepared and distributed around west Belfast Picture Mal McCann. Foods parcels being prepared and distributed around west Belfast Picture Mal McCann.

"THIS is what working-class community and cross-community looks like."

Robert McClenaghan from the Falls Residents Association was speaking as all around him fellow volunteers worked with cheerful efficiency to parcel up food and other essential supplies for vulnerable neighbours.

Inside the rescue packs were the toilet rolls donated across the peaceline by the Crumlin Road Masonic Hall last week.

With the streets outside all but empty, Grosvenor Community Centre was a hive of activity yesterday morning as volunteers from Divis Youth Project, Immaculata FC, the Heart Project and Falls Residents Association gathered to assemble and deliver the packs to the doorsteps of 120 people in west Belfast.

Sinn Féin councillor Tina Black, who is coordinating the effort, said they had been "blown away" by the fast turnaround from the Community Foundation who had distributed the money from the Northern Ireland Coronavirus Community Fund.

"We only applied just over a week ago and we have been able to purchase essential supplies and will get them out today," she said.

"We're delivering cereal, diluted juice, tuna - tinned produce like that - and washing powder, I know myself how it can be the most expensive thing on the shopping list."

Ms Black said they have been overwhelmed by the amount of help offered.

"We're having a problem with having too many volunteers. We're trying to do everything safely so we are spacing them well out.

"We've taken their details and are hoping to pass them on to the health service when they need help."

She said it was just one of a number of efforts to help people in the area during the stress of lockdown and pandemic fears.

"It's part of our `OVERCOME' project. We're going to keep the community centre open with a skeleton staff. We have fitness classes online and learning packs for children.

"We have a community garden and we're keeping it open, letting one person in at a time. There are people alone, some bereaved, and the thought of spending all their time at home by themselves with their thoughts is too much for them.

"We will have people at the end of the phone for them to call and will be checking up on them."

Mr McClenaghan was among those coordinating the work yesterday, despite himself being in a vulnerable group due to his diabetes.

"I feel a duty as a community activist for the last 30 years," he said.

"Not all of us are going to make it so I may as well do something as not."