Salt of the Earth: Meet Jo Ellis, who happily gives her time to help those in need in Scarborough

It has been quite a year for our Salt of the Earth recipients. It seems almost unimaginable now, but our very first Salt, Brian Raw, was nominated for organising group holidays for the local bowling club.

Monday, 21st December 2020, 12:09 pm
Updated Monday, 21st December 2020, 12:12 pm

Fast forward almost 12 months and our Salt’s have had to adapt and seek out ways to help their neighbours in a more socially distanced manner.

One way they have done this is by helping those who are too vulnerable to leave the house by collecting shopping, prescriptions or stopping by for a friendly natter.

This week's Salt of the Earth is Jo Ellis. Jo was nominated, in part, for her work with Age UK Scarborough and District by CEO Julie Macey-Hewitt.

Volunteering with a smile!

Ms Macey-Hewitt said: “Jo started by shopping and collecting prescriptions (and any other random collections/deliveries that needed doing.)

“When the first lock-down finished she also started working in our charity shop in Eastfield (alongside the shopping etc) and at the end of the second lockdown she has once again returned to the shop.

“Jo is also volunteering for the Ryedale Carers and is an NHS responder. She really is the Salt of the Earth.”

Jo, who lives in Staxton, started volunteering in March in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

Jo Ellis has been shopping for others during the pandemic

She said: “I'd been wanting to do some form of volunteering for a long time, and at the end of last year I approached St Catherine's Hospice. I had literally had all checks and been accepted when the pandemic began.

“I was working in hospitality, making people hot drinks, giving out water jugs etcetera.

“I’d only been volunteering for 6 weeks when they had to stop volunteers entering the premises.”

Jo was disappointed to no longer be able to help and quickly looked around to find something else she could do.

Jo visits several supermarkets around the town

She said: “It came up on my Facebook news feed that there was a need for volunteers in the community.

“I put out a message to say that I was interested in helping, and received a reply from Julie, who I already knew as we have children the same age and I’d met her doing the school runs.

“She introduced herself as CEO of Age UK, Scarborough and District and said they were looking for volunteers.

“I had just had my DBS check, so I was good to go. I started doing people’s shopping and collecting their prescriptions, and now I have my own people who I ring every week.

Jo first started volunteering in March

“They’ve become friends. I don't just drop shopping off, I like to stand and have a natter.

“They’re very interested in what I've been up to, especially as they can't go anywhere or do anything themselves.

“Everybody does it differently. I ring them all on a Monday and ask what shopping they would like. I try to do it in as few journey’s as possible. I usually plan a route via Sainsbury's and Morrisons and then get milk and prescriptions.

“It's like a treasure hunt sometimes. People can be so specific ‘Get Bird's-eye not Young's fish fingers for example. I wasn't really a shopper at Sainsbury's before the pandemic, so I don’t always know my way round. I feel like I should win a prize when I finish the shopping!”

“I quite often do an extra second shop and say ‘if you would need anything else let me know’ or I’ll go and do a shop for people who have been asked to self-isolate.”

“I'm also an NHS responder. I signed up when they first asked people to. It varies what you do. You have an alarm on your phone to say someone needs help and then you press a button to accept or reject.

“You read details of who it is and where they live. You ring them three times, and if you can’t get hold of them, you hand it back. “

Jo, 54, said the number of calls she received can vary from day to day, often it’s one or two, but on the first day of the second lockdown she had seven.

Jo has recently started covering a few shifts at the Age UK charity shop on Falsgrave Road, she said: “I've never fancied working in a shop. However, I said ‘would you mind if I went and did a couple of shifts?’ and I really enjoyed it.

“I was disappointed when it shut for the second lockdown. I never go home empty-handed. There are such bargains to be had.

“My mum has been getting me to buy fabric and wool. She’s been making masks for people and knitting for babies.

Jo also volunteers for Ryedale Carers, she said: “Age UK don’t cover Staxton, so I signed up for Ryedale Carers so that I could help people in the village.”

“At the end of the day, it's something you can do if you're shopping for yourself. If you approach Age UK and say I don't have much time, but I'd still like to help, they’d find someone near to you.”

“I've never been so busy. I still have to do everything I did before, but honestly l love it.

“People can be so grateful it's humbling. The reward is that you're appreciated.”

Jo has been helping John and Anne (Names have been changed) since March.

John said: ”She's wonderful. She's really been an angel.

“She's been a lifeline. My mum has been shielding and, of course, with me looking after her because she’s 92, I couldn't really go out and get contaminated.

“I'm 61, so I've got to be careful. We look forward to her coming. She's really good and gets everything we ask. She's kept us fed and watered and gets us anything else we need from the chemist like aspirins and cough sweets.

“Jo has been so good. Anything we ask for she brings it. She has a great personality and she’s always happy. She’s a godsend.”

Julie Macey-Hewitt said that 40 more volunteers are urgently required to help support those with covid-related needs.

She said: “Shopping is the biggest thing we need people for, but we also require telephone befrienders, probably 15-20 of each

“The covid hub is still providing support to the people of Scarborough and the surrounding area and we are not here to just to help those who are elderly, or clinically vulnerable.

“We’ve also been helping people like single mothers who find themselves suddenly housebound when one of their children is asked to self-isolate by their school.

“We want to let people know that the covid hub is still available. It’s getting to people who don’t normally ask for help and letting them know we’re here.

“Whatever you need, ring us, and if we can’t do it we’ll point you in the right direction for someone who can.

Age UK can be contacted from 9am-4pm Monday to Friday on 01723 379 058. Alternatively you can find more information on their Facebook Page.