When the whole country went in to lockdown back in March, two women from the small Valleys town of Blaenavon decided they would do whatever they could to help others around them.
Heather Cox and Roz Robertson, both managers at the popular Queen Victoria Inn, have since gone above and beyond with the work they’ve done for their community, organising weekly online bingo sessions, as well as delivering food parcels and essential items to isolated members of the town.
The pair have also raised over £10,000 since they started the project, using the funds to buy a range of equipment for Neville Hall Hospital, as well as a number of other local care homes.
While both acknowledge the huge amount of work that’s gone on during this unprecedented year, they also say it could be just the beginning for them and others in the area.
Known for the charity work she does, Heather Cox, 57, says she felt it was the least she could do for people at this time, and hopes the events and fundraising activities have lifted spirits in the town at least a little bit.
She said: “I’ve lived in Blaenavon for a number of years now and when everything happened with the virus we knew there would be something we could do to raise the community spirit and bring people together.
“The pub was shut, but as a central part of the town we thought we might as well do something, and started organising a number of events such as online raffle nights and bingo .
“It really took off with over two hundred people from all over the country joining in on some sessions, and while at first we were doing it for free, we realised that if we could charge a small amount for people to play on certain nights then we could really do a lot of good with the money.
“We’ve raised over £10,000 at this point and every penny has gone back in to the community. We put food parcels and care packages together for those who contracted the virus in the town, and have also given cheques to Neville Hall Hospital for a range of equipment.
“That also led us in to raising more for the people in there, as we wanted them to have Samsung tablets and smart phones that would keep them occupied, as well as allow them to do video calls with their families while they were apart.
“To be honest I don’t necessarily feel proud of the work we’ve done, because we didn’t do it for praise, but I am incredibly proud of the way the people of Blaenavon have responded to everything that’s come along with this pandemic, showing how well we take care of each other in times of need.”
Partner Roz Robertson, 57, has also worked at the Queen Victoria Inn in Blaenavon since 2012 and says the response they’ve had from people locally has been remarkable, and hopes this community spirit will now continue long in to the future.
She said “Looking back at it we’re pleased with what we’ve done since the beginning of the pandemic, as it really is great to be able to give something back.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with the online group we brought together on Facebook, which has seen people from Wales, England and even Scotland all playing together, and we’ve also started putting some other games on for the kids now as well.
“We used the pub as a drop off point for donations of food and other essential items to be distributed from at certain times, as well as buying a defibrillator for people of the town to use if they ever need it in an emergency.
“There’s almost too much to keep track of at this point but we’ll definitely keep going with this now, and are happy to help out for as long as we can.”
Local Stephanie Williams nominated the pair after joining in with the online activities run by the pub, and says the work that Heather and Roz have done has really helped keep the people of Blaenavon sane.
She said: “Nominating Heather and Roz was the least I could do given the absolutely amazing work they have done for the community of Blaenavon since the pandemic started, and I really feel they deserve to be acknowledged.
“This is a very tight knit town, and these online bingo sessions and raffles have really helped keep it that way, raising our mood and allowing us to have at least some sort of normality.
“If I could say anything to them now it would just be to thank them for all they’ve done, as it’s been greatly appreciated, and keep up the great work.”