Flood volunteer efforts – can you help?

The floods may have gone, but the need for volunteers to help with the recovery in parts of Somerset remains as great as ever.

Each day around 25 people have been turning up to assist those affected by flooding, doing everything from cleaning houses and removals, to gardening and DIY.

Somerset County Council is now funding a specialist group, Somerset Emergency Volunteers (SEV), to co-ordinate the efforts of these volunteers and make sure they can be deployed where they are most needed.

SEV is based in the Old School Building at Burrowbridge seven days a week and is the main point of contact for anyone who thinks they need help from volunteers – or for anyone who wants to volunteer themselves.

The group is a joint project between Mendip Community Support and South Somerset Association for Voluntary and Community Action, which are led by Paula Blight and Sam Best.

Paula said: “Some people are able to get on and do what they need themselves, but others need a bit of help, be it getting rid of a flood damaged sofa or putting up a new fence in their garden.”

Sam added: “There are so many volunteers who have given their time to help out, and our job is to get them where they are most needed and make sure they can give their hugely valuable help in a co-ordinated and safe way.”

SEV also organises regular large volunteering efforts by businesses, groups and schools, where bus-loads of helpers are brought in to carry out specific tasks. These have ranged from clearing ditches and planting flowers to making lunches to feed the army of volunteers.

Paula said: “We’d love to invite a restaurant or café or even a celebrity chef to make a guest appearance one day and cater for all the helpers.”

Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “The overwhelming desire of the public to help has been the major positive to come out of these terrible floods.

“The challenge was to harness all the goodwill, and I’m sure now we’ve funded a dedicated co-ordination group it will really help to get these wonderful volunteers in the places where they are most needed.

“Volunteering is rewarding, fun and looks good on your CV – so if you can spare a few hours to help, why not give it a go?”

You can contact SEV by calling the Burrowbridge base on 01823 698300 or emailing info@somersetev.org.uk. Or you can keep up to date with the team’s activities by following @SomersetEV on Twitter or visiting the Somerset Emergency Volunteers Facebook page.