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A helpline for those in need

Farmville Cares has established the Peer-to-Peer Volunteer Network Helpline for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patsy Watson

Patsy Watson noted Farmville Cares is a collective of area nonprofits that got together and were trying to figure out how to have a coordinated response in the community to the pandemic, working together while making sure they were not duplicating services.

“I told them that I would try to get a group of volunteers together, and we would try to respond to people who called in,” she said. “So we set up a helpline, and that information is also on the website for Farmville Cares along with the intake forms for both volunteers and people that have needs.”

The website she referenced is FarmvilleCares.org, and the helpline is (434) 414-1188. The website notes it matches volunteers with individuals who request assistance with grocery shopping, rides to the doctor, etc.. It is staffed from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. each day.

The helpline serves a seven-county region that includes Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties.

The group of 30-plus volunteers making the helpline possible starts with three that set the whole operation in motion.

“They’re making contact with the folks and trying to figure out how best to help them, making referrals to agencies, and if there’s a need that’s voiced, like someone to get groceries, then we put out a call,” Watson said. “We have some volunteers that are younger and more comfortable going into the grocery stores than some of the older ones, so then they step in to also help out.”

Some callers need someone to mow their lawn or pick up medication for them. Others are concerned about their lights being turned off.

“They’re concerned about how to pay their rent, and there are some state hotline numbers with some resources that we’re referring those individuals to,” Watson said. “So it’s a matter of linking them with websites and telephone numbers.”

She said the helpline has received approximately 300 calls.

“The calls have slowed down a little bit, and we’ve been able to refer a lot of those people to some of the other agencies,” she said. “Actively, I would guess from those 300 calls, on a continuing basis, we’re probably serving 150 people.”

Watson said three quarters of that total are senior citizens.

She said Piedmont Senior Resources Area Agency on Aging Inc. (PSR) has recently received a significant amount of grant money that will allow it to help these senior callers in a major way.

“It looks like we’re going to be able to move most of the senior individuals that need help back over to (PSR) for grocery shopping and the lawn mowing and all of that,” Watson said on behalf of the helpline. “And so primarily we’ll be serving the people under 60 that have some needs.”

The helpline also now has an affiliate in Buckingham called Buckingham County Mutual Aid and Survival.”

Buckingham County Mutual Aid and Survival can be reached at (434) 414-1451 or contact@buckinghammutualaid.net.

Watson said if any other counties are interested in creating an affiliate, they can call (434) 414-1188.

She noted leaders within Farmville Cares are already thinking of the helpline in the context of the future.

“I think they’re hoping that this will be sort of the forerunner of something in the future that would be ready to be utilized in case of something like this (pandemic) again and trying to get the seven counties to do this collectively,” Watson said.