I was very glad to see the back of January, a challenging month for us all marked with more cases of people succumbing to or being seriously ill with Covid. Our thoughts go out to those coming to terms with the passing of a loved one at this difficult time. As the transmission rate starts to decline, we can hopefully start to look towards spring with sunnier days ahead and a degree of optimism.

Despite the difficult period we are experiencing, I felt it would be beneficial to share some positive stories. Felixstowe Councillor Graham Newman became the Chairman of Suffolk County Council last year. Graham is always looking for ways to raise money for charity and so launched the challenge with St Elizabeth Hospice to virtually cycle 272km (the total distance between all their Suffolk shops). Many of us will know people who have received their outstanding support, so I have signed up to support him. The challenge started on Monday 1 February and, so far, I have managed to complete 126km and about nine episodes of Sky’s Tin Star! It is good to have something else to focus on while, hopefully, getting a little bit fitter. It’s not too late to sign up either: details are on the St Elizabeth Hospice website.

East Suffolk Councill continues to support residents by launching the EAST Bags campaign. These bags contain food and useful items to keep you both physically and mentally active. They are primarily aimed at people living alone or who feel isolated but can include couples and families who are having to isolate. If you know someone who would benefit from this package please contact Chloe Lee, our Communities Officer, and she will arrange a delivery: chloe.lee@eastsuffolk.gov.uk / 07557 486172

With the help of other volunteers, I have been helping Chloe to deliver them and it is always humbling to see how grateful people are when they receive them.

You will be aware The Grove Surgery has become the vaccination centre for Felixstowe. I was delighted to join the band of volunteers who have been helping with traffic flow to the surgery. It is pleasing to see that the vast majority of visitors are grateful for the assistance which has led to a very smooth operation.

On Monday 8 February, volunteers and staff from the town council joined forces to clear The Grove car park of snow and enable the vaccination centre to open. East Suffolk Norse helped out on the Sunday by clearing the paths around the surgery. Although it was not their responsibility, they recognised the importance of keeping the surgery open. It was fantastic to be part of a combined community and council effort that resulted in many more vaccinations taking place when the weather had forced so many other centres in Suffolk to close. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

The Grove will be a key vaccination centre for months to come so if you do fancy offering a few hours, please contact me and I will pass your details onto the co-ordinator. This leads me nicely on to the benefits of volunteering.

Many of us are furloughed or retired with perhaps time on our hands. Volunteering offers a chance to make a positive contribution, giving you a purpose to the day and with the opportunity of meeting new people. Several websites list local opportunities, including the Felixstowe Volunteer Centre: felixstowevolunteercentre@grouphunter.co.uk

Until next time, please keep yourselves safe and look out for your neighbours and friends!

Mayor of Felixstowe Mark Jepson

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