An east Belfast care home has received a donation of five tablets from a local retailer, helping their residents to keep in regular contact with their loved ones.

The staff at EUROSPAR Ballyhackamore on the Upper Newtownards Road have been fundraising with their shoppers for the local community for years, but since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, they have been thinking of innovative ways to help their neighbours.

Wendy Smith, the community champion in store contacted local care home, Hawthorn House, and was able to deliver five tablets to make it easier for families to contact their loved ones during the visitation restrictions.

Wendy says; “we were able to purchase four tablets with the help of our brilliant shoppers, then staff clubbed together to buy the fifth, giving even more residents the opportunity to chat to their families.

“We can’t imagine how solitary it must be to go from regular visits to none, so hopefully seeing their loved one’s faces will help immeasurably.”

Lyndsey Esler, manager of Hawthorn House says “Having the tablets now means we have more freedom to create a better system for everyone to keep in touch, which really does help with their mental wellbeing.

“We are very grateful to the team at EUROSPAR Ballyhackamore for thinking of us.”

Wendy finished; “this was a lovely project for us to work on. Hawthorn House has wonderful staff, it was a very humbling experience for us as fellow key workers.”

And those are not the only spirits that have been lifted by the store since the start of the pandemic; the team at EUROSPAR Ballyhackamore have been collecting rocks, taking them home to wash them and putting out a supply of rocks for children to take home and paint in Dundonald.

It has supported the amazing Rock Snake at Moat Park, with the last count reaching well over 1,500 stones. Each one has been painted beautifully to brighten up people’s days, and some even have messages of hope.

Wendy added; “the Rock Snake has plenty of encouraging and uplifting messages for the whole community, and lovely that it is so close to the Ulster Hospital where it might brighten a difficult day for a key worker.”

The east Belfast team have stepped up immeasurably for the local community during the COVID-19 crisis, also donating £2,000 of food to The Larder Foodbank over a period of 12 weeks since lockdown.  Each week they’ve checked what the Foodbank service users need and have strived to deliver those items.

Most recently, they raised funds to make up 50 individual ‘care packs’; essential toiletries for those who need to leave home urgently due to domestic abuse. The packs were labelled ‘You Are Not Alone’ and delivered to Women’s Aid, who take calls from both women and men, organising emergency accommodation where necessary, after a spike in calls for help from those isolated with an abusive partner over the past few months.