Alderman John Smyth, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough, has presented Together Ballyclare with an award from the borough in recognition for the project’s community engagement during the coronavirus pandemic.
Together Ballyclare was created as a joint initiative involving the greater Ballyclare churches – with more than 200 volunteers – and the borough council, to provide support to those isolating and shielding who were most affected by the pandemic.
The group was formed by the Rev Jonny Campbell-Smyth, rector of the Untied Parish of Ballyeaston and Ballynure (Ballyclare), and Michelle Purdy, Deaconess of Ballyclare Presbyterian Church. The project has received more than 700 phone calls requesting support from the public.
The initiative received wide public recognition, providing services such as prescription collections, food collections, government food parcel deliveries, referrals for Foodbank, and urgent provisions for new mums.
With the help of Christina Baillie, Connor Diocesan Youth Officer, some of the StreetReach volunteers helped deliver Government food parcels to the most vulnerable in Ballyclare.
Josh Campbell-Smyth, a member of St John’s Ballyclare (pictured receiving the award) was involved in this year’s StreetReach. During this week, he also became the Together Ballyclare Co-ordinator, taking calls from people in need.
“Just being able to help people in such simple ways really blessed me and brightened up my day,” Josh said. “It was encouraging to have conversations with many people and hear how we could make a difference in difficult times. Even though times are tough, we have seen God’s people bring hope to many people in need”.
Jonny said: “I’ve been encouraged to see how the churches in our community are working together with one purpose – to bring God’s hope to people in need. We have now established a healthy connection with the council, and have been asked to set up a school uniform donation service to support families who cannot afford to purchase new uniforms for their children, which can be very expensive.
“Whilst the churches have been closed, we have seen an incredible life in God’s people during these last months – something that we are definitely going to build upon.”