REGION — Organizers of the Bethel Area Neighborhood Response team, formed in March to help families impacted by COVID-19, have decided to disband the volunteer group and join forces with the Age Friendly Community Initiative.

When COVID-19 hit hard and fast back in March, the greater Bethel area proved more than prepared to handle the changes brought by the pandemic. A big reason the area was successful was because of BANR. The group delivered food pantry baskets, grocery shopped and picked up prescriptions for families unable to leave their homes.

One of BANR’s organizers, Sarah Southam, said lately the group has received fewer requests for groceries and prescriptions, likely because the state has come out of lock-down and that people have found other avenues to get help.

“Back in the spring when BANR came together, we anticipated that some community members were going to need help obtaining groceries and other necessary items during the lock-down. We also anticipated food insecurity to increase and, beyond that, we really had no idea what was to come,” Southam said in an email.

Now into the fall and with more uncertainties possibly in the future, the AFCI will continue to provide support and service to community members. While AFCI largely focuses on aiding elderly people in the area, the group is not confined to just that. It has a Neighbor to Neighbor Rides program, an outreach team and devoted group of volunteers. AFCI currently has more than 40 clients it helps.

The AFCI is still checking in with its clients and plans to “problem solve as time goes on, to find solutions,” she said. People who volunteered with BANR and want to continue helping out, still can, by emailing [email protected] or calling 381-7309. People are encouraged to lend a hand.
“We would like to thank all of you who gave incredible amounts of time in helping with requests that came in during the early stages of the pandemic. It was so wonderful to put out a request and have so many people jump to help. We are blessed to live in such a caring community,” Southam said.

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