THOUSANDS of people in southern Oxfordshire have been forced to rely on charities for food, medicine and transport during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Acting on a hunch that many elderly and vulnerable people in the Wantage area would be going hungry in light of the pandemic the Ray Collins charity took matters into its own hands.

Volunteers have been stretched thin since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, delivering groceries and pharmacy prescriptions, with more than 2,400 residents in need of help.

Ray Collins – the man behind the Ray Collins Charitable Trust and the Wantage Coronavirus Support Group – revealed that a dedicated phone line was set up, with members of Wantage Methodist Church congregation and trust volunteers handling the calls between 9am and 7pm, seven days a week.

More than 10,000 leaflets were produced and delivered to all streets in Wantage and Grove thanks to the Grove scouts and their parents to inform residents of their services.

Several banners were also put up along the main roads displaying the phone numbers.

The helpline received 1,900 calls from local residents and the text line that was added after a few weeks received 800 texts for prescriptions.

A mobile credit card system was also established to take card payments to limit contact and eliminate the need for cash.

According to the latest statistics published by the charity nearly 500 shopping trips have been carried out for people. who were shielding or self-isolating.

The charity received grants from Wantage Town Council of £5,960 and £5,000 from Grove Parish Council, which allowed the group to set up a ‘ very efficient and prolonged’ response to the crisis.

By the end of August the Ray Collins charity had also raised £58,285 to assist the struggling town.

The Wantage Trust also supported 20 families with emergency electrical appliances including cookers, fridge freezers and washing machines at a cost of £6,000.

In addition, the charity has paid for taxis for vulnerable people for appointments at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

It also took on the costs for two skips to clear out two overgrown gardens, so that carers could get to vulnerable patients without fear of tripping over hazards and extremely overgrown hedges and trees.

Mr Collins confirmed the charity had a dedicated pot of funds for families hit by redundancies.

The group has also began preparing for the next wave of job losses that could hit the area over the next months.

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Praising the nearly 150 volunteers who signed up to help initially, he commented: “I do not know how to show my huge debt of gratitude to all the volunteers and Covid group for helping us with this fight during the pandemic.

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“Their support, ideas and insights made it much easier to proceed in the right direction and complete the multitude of tasks successfully.

“You are all very special people who will always be remembered for your numerous acts of kindness and the light you brought to so many in fear of the dark times we faced.”

For more information on how the charity visit