A huge thank you to all the local people who responded to our recent call for help and stepped forward to volunteer as marshals at Ripon Racecourse Vaccination Centre. Thanks to your help, the vaccination programme has romped past its first target a couple of days early. The Racecourse also hit the national press with a feature in The Guardian at the weekend – click here to read it. Mo Marshall, an MCO volunteer who was there on the day of their visit, was even quoted. MCO is one of the community organisations working to manage the volunteer effort at Ripon, and although we didn’t get a name-check in the Guardian article, all the volunteers on that day were definitely from Masham Community Office, so thank you everyone!

On the same day, 600+ of our area’s most vulnerable people received their first vaccination from clinical staff brought in from Ripon and Masham GP practices, all with the support of our lovely volunteers. Many people are anxious, especially since so many of them haven’t left their homes or driven anywhere in nearly a year. The Vaccination Centre is located in the Racecourse bar and the mood so positive – it really seems to be giving everyone a lift, despite the fact that the bar is closed! Appointments begin at 8:30AM and finish at 6:00PM with the day organised into a morning and afternoon session with a shift change of staff and volunteers over lunch. Thanks to the efficient and enthusiastic team, the vaccinations run like clockwork with little or no waiting required.

Mashamshire Community Office Manager, Sarah McCourt, has been responsible for recruiting, checking and coordinating volunteers to cover one or sometimes two days per week. Following our initial appeal for help 3 weeks ago, Sarah was swamped with over 200 responses – thanks to social media, the call out when a bit further than we wanted, with people from Skipton, York and Ilkley desperate to help. She has now distilled our volunteer pool down to a team of around 70, more local people and, where possible, referred others to their local voluntary organisations. A big thank you goes to Sarah too – it has been a huge amount of extra work much of which she’s done in her own time.

The Racecourse itself is a perfect site and everyone is very grateful to be able to come to somewhere so handy. However, getting traffic and pedestrians in and out safely is not straightforward. It takes 13 volunteer marshals for each shift – 26 volunteers a day. The volunteer roles are a mix of inside and out and have been prescribed by the NHS. From greeting people and checking appointment times on the gate, to controlling traffic flow, car parking, reassuring people, shepherding them through the vaccination process, monitoring the observation area and assisting people with limited mobility – they are all roles that are essential to enable the clinical staff to get the jabs done.
Of course in Masham, we always go above and beyond. So, when a lady arrived with a flat tyre last Thursday, our dedicated team of car parking marshals swung into action. By the time she’d emerged from her vaccination, our crack team had performed quick wheel change. She was impressed of course…but she didn’t see the amount of head-scratching and chin-rubbing involved in locating the spare!

All in all, despite the weather, we’re all enjoying getting out, doing something really useful and having a bit of much-needed banter.