Here's how a pickup truck saved a community
COVID-19 quickly made movement difficult, cutting people off from their communities. With the help of an X350d, here's how I mobilised a small army!
Within 24 hours, everything changed. Those over 70, vulnerable or on the shielded register suddenly found themselves locked inside with no way to get food, shopping, prescriptions and no where to turn if they didn't have local family. Supermarkets were overly-busy with deliveries and overlooked many those in need, pharmacies didn't have enough drivers to support the demand and suddenly overnight a hectic and busy community turned into a total ghost town.
Staring out the window at the X350d, it dawned on me that this press car (truck) was destined for more than just 'essential' shopping trips. It could, very easily, be a lifeline for so many in the community unable to go out. I put together 'Denvilles Alliance' alongside 'Emsworth Alliance' with the original idea that we could work off each other. Little did I know how busy both areas would eventually become or how totally essential the X-Class would be to the communities.
It's not just shopping trips
Multiple UK wide volunteer schemes have been set up, asking people to give their time. They've all suggested it's phone calls and shopping trips, however, behind the scenes it's the smaller groups which are doing some more of the essential work. From helping the NHS move equipment around to supporting a suicidal resident - a day in the life of a community volunteer can be hectic. At times you even have to respond massively quickly to an urgent medical request, utilising all of the X350d's 258bhp.
Over the lockdown, it became apparent that the original residents we assumed we'd be supporting weren't even the tip of the iceberg. Those who were self-employed and had no money, they needed food too like anyone would. Households on benefits being overlooked for essential food parcels, we were their lifeline. The mental strain on residents being indoors 20 hours a day was quickly becoming obvious, including the hard work our volunteers were doing tiring them out to no-end.
Over the course of a week, I'd grown my community volunteers from 10, to 50, then 100. Now a month or so later we have 208 volunteers ready to get involved however they can, from urgent trips to donating food - our team is incredible and a true shining light in this dark time. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and from all age groups, everyone cares and everyone gets involved however they can. We've collectively helped over 150 households and 300 individuals on top of countless joint ventures with other groups in the locality and helping the NHS wherever we can.
To give you an idea to the amount of groups which are needed, we technically only cover around 2 square miles. However, myself and my volunteers are travelling up to 15 miles in any direction to help others.
Without the Mercedes X350d, this wouldn't have been possible...
There's only so much you can do in a normal car, especially when residents can live down muddy tracks... and there's lots of them. Shopping for 3-4 households at a time, picking up various prescriptions and distributing & collecting food parcels wouldn't be achievable in a normal car. The X350d enabled me to do everything with total ease, in the comfort of a luxury pickup truck which averaged 25mpg around town easily. When a resident couldn't get a food parcel or food bank assistance, I managed to arrange two full IKEA boxes of food and sorted it all in the rear bed. That's not something you can do in a normal car, trust me! It's helpful to be able to sort away from the main cab - keeps food and prescriptions clean and contaminant free.
Through everything so far, it's shown itself to be a trustworthy friend. Never kicking up a fuss, always starting at the press of a button and pushing through each day like the hero it is. Knowing I can throw a tonne of food in the back, collect 30 prescriptions and still have a fun vehicle to drive - I couldn't have asked for a better companion during COVID-19. For me, some days it was a light to guide me through. When life got on top of me, the V6 rumble made me smile and then everything was okay again.
What does the future hold?
Whilst governments are trying to get everything 'back to normal', behind the curtains people like myself and my army of volunteers will be helping those who can't get 'back to normal'. Those who's lives have been torn apart by COVID-19, either through loss of jobs or of life. We'll be tirelessly helping to collect shopping, prescriptions, arrange and delivery food parcels, be that voice on the end of the phone to someone at the end of their mental capacity and most of all - we'll be doing it out of the goodness of our hearts. We'll also be helping people going through anything from loss of a parent or friend, to those who have lost their job and don't know where to turn. We're more than just community responders really.
Thus far, we're totally un-funded. We do this because it's the right thing to do. I'm easily £200-300 deep in diesel (before anything else) and many volunteers have donated entire shops to families unable to pay themselves. We're now tackling a whole new type of individual, one who needs more financial help, those who are in very dark places - and we predict we'll be here for at least another year. Our plans will change, our lives may adapt, but we'll always be here helping the community. The X350d? Well, that might be going home soon - but it's left an impact on my life I'll remember for the rest of my days.
As an additional bit - I just wanted to thank Mercedes Benz Vans UK for allowing me to use the X350d throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. More so, the fact that they allowed it without question or limitations. Without their help and use of the vehicle, the care we'd have been giving would have been much less. Whilst myself and my team of community volunteers have made an impact, Mercedes Benz Vans UK have also made a huge impact by supporting us. One resident still smiles every time she sees the X-Class pull onto their drive - "it's the care truck".
To any of you reading this, during this difficult time - please stay safe. I wish good health to yourself, your families and your friends. There's been so much loss in the world, so let's create a shining light to guide us through the dark times.