Covid-19 Heroes: The Best of Leeds Community Spirit

By July 27, 2020 August 4th, 2020 Features-Leeds

Coronavirus has truly brought out the best in our community. Here is just a small selection of those that have gone above and beyond to help friends and strangers through challenging times.

No-one had a Stitch on Carrie Nason

Carrie – Fashion designer

“After a couple of months shielding with my 16 year-old twins, I needed something to keep me sane! Lockdown has been tough – especially with the kids having GCSEs and prom cancelled and the loss of my friend’s dad who I loved dearly – but this project has helped me emotionally as well as raising vital funds.

“I started sewing when my two best friends, Emma and Nicky put on the first NGA Chanukah show, and asked me to make the costumes – but I’d never made anything in my life! 10 years later I made Emma her wedding dress – so when I had a few friends asking me to make them, I didn’t think it would be too difficult. I didn’t feel right making money, so helping keep people safe while raising funds for The Zone felt perfect – it’s an amazing facility and has done so much for me and the twins.

“I make them to order, so people can choose their own designs and I have lots of choice for kids too. I thought raising £100 would be brilliant, but after masks were announced as mandatory, orders have gone crazy, and now I’ve raised £700 and counting.

“Due to the current situation The Zone has missed lots of fundraising opportunities, so the money will help fund its virtual summer projects, one of which I’m helping with. The idea for the Lockdown Montage came off the back of designing Emma’s chuppah, made of squares of material that every guest had signed. Squares have gone out to children across the community to get creative with, from which I’ll be making a rainbow wall hanging. I probably didn’t need to take on any more work, but I’m a glutton for punishment and terrible at saying no!”

To place an order, email

Darren and Carole Taylor

Darren Shopped Until he Dropped

Darren Taylor – Barber

“I’m not looking for plaudits. There are people far more worthy than me – nurses and carers putting their life on the line. All I did was fill a bit of time by doing some shopping for people.

“I had three months off from barbering. No martial arts, no scouts, no CST. Everything came to a standstill, so it was nice to do something with a bit of purpose. The LJWB do a lot, but many people were perhaps a bit embarrassed about ringing them, so I just got some leaflets printed and stuck them up in shop windows.

“Getting committees together can take time and I’m quite direct – so I made a Facebook group, 25 fantastic local people joined and together, we just managed it. It was fun juggling 15 baskets of shopping on the floor of Gourmet and trying to keep it organised in the back of my car! People are still adopting vulnerable community members to help now, I’ve even lumbered my wife with doing the shopping for my two new 86 year-old girlfriends – they became quite friendly with me!”

Sagi Yechezkel was a Real Class Act

An anonymous colleague

“Sagi Yechezkel, affectionately known by pupils as Mr Y, is head of Jewish Education at Brodetsky Primary School and at the age of 28, he should be having the time of his life, but what he’s spent the entirety of lockdown doing is figuring out how to safely open up the school so our kids can receive their education. He’s been a real driving force, coming in every day to teach keyworker children – even over Pesach – and on the days he hasn’t been into school, he’s been helping out at Gourmet.

“On a personal note, my son is coming up to Bar Mitzvah age and Sagi has continued his preparation through Zoom every week without fail. This guy has worked his ass off to give our kids as much as he can – it’s tremendous! All the children have been in two days a week and he’s coordinated with teachers to make sure everyone has lesson plans. The quality of the teaching and support is beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s hard to single out Sagi, as all staff at both schools have gone above and beyond. If he knew I was nominating him, he’d tell me off – but he deserves it so much.”

Ivan Got the Community Fighting Fit

Ivan Green – Fitness Instructor

“I combined the fact that I was in lockdown and needed an interest with a concern that there are many older people who need exercise but would never think of doing a class. As many of these people are getting older, they need more exercise rather than less, because they’re extremely vulnerable to trip and fall injuries – this can be a life changing episode in a flash and the start of a downward spiral.

“So I decided to start twice-weekly 30 minute Zoom sessions comprised of safe, gentle exercises designed to keep people safe – all you require is a chair. Founded on the principles of Pilates, I prioritise mobility and balance and show people they can fall safely. I try to spice it up with fun Olympic style games – I take them through swimming, boxing, rowing and ballet. The beauty of Zoom is you can do it in your pyjamas, with no-one watching!

“I go running every week with an assessor for cardiac rehabilitation, so I’ve consulted with him to ensure they’re safe for older people with no experience. I called the sessions PEP, Physical Exercise with a Purpose that would ‘pep-up’ people’s morning and came up with the motto: ‘save the NHS, maintain your fitness’, to help relieve the stress on the NHS during a difficult time. So far, I have around 30 participants from across the world from Israel to Ireland and Leeds of course!

“I’m a keen fitness fanatic, attending classes for over 30 years now. I celebrated my 80th last month and I’m still doing triathlons. In August I was due to represent Great Britain in the 79 to 84 age group sprint triathlon in Sweden!”

Mark Worked Miracles for the NHS

Mark Freeman – NHS Consultant

“Working for The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust as a medical consultant and clinical director, my role was to rejig the rotas for the junior doctors and consultants and coordinate the reconfiguration of the hospital, so that when patients came in with Covid-19, they could flow safely through A&E and to the wards.”

“I spent a lot of time clinically assessing affected patients, ensuring they received the right treatment and monitoring their progress. Our trust had 900 coronavirus patients through the doors and sadly, over 300 died. We also lost two colleagues, one nurse and one locum consultant – so it has been emotionally and professionally tough.

“You’d come home knackered after a 12 or even 14-hour day knowing you’d have to do it all over again the next morning. The hardest thing was having to tell somebody their loved one was dying over Zoom, as all visiting was suspended. We had tablets they could use to see their relatives in their last few hours. There were a lot of younger workers on the front line more emotionally involved and going forward there will undoubtedly be a rise in PTSD, but the Trust did a lot to support their staff, providing psychologists and break-out rooms.

“It’s the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced, but it really showed the NHS at its best. The response from the community, from dropping off knitted face coverings and hand gels to clapping on their doorsteps every Thursday was fantastic. I was quite proud of the fact our emergency planning had been set up right and it was incredibly rewarding to see some intensive care patients come back from the brink. It was real a collective effort – and something not a single one of us will forget.”

LJHA Made the Community Feel Safe as Houses

Jayne Wynick – Chair of LJHA

“I’m inordinately proud of every one of our staff. We house many elderly and vulnerable people and within one week of lockdown, the team made an incredible effort to ensure no-one was left isolated at such a scary time. Our whole team have gone above and beyond, creating a calm and helpful atmosphere. The support workers who look after our sheltered schemes have been fabulous, going from face-to-face visits pre-Covid-19, to speaking remotely to all their dependents on a daily basis, ensuring they had what they needed.

“Regular Facebook Live Q&A sessions were presented by our operations director Craig Simons, help was available for those applying for universal credit and other benefits, and we worked closely with LJWB to support more vulnerable tenants. We’d also like to thank all those involved in our distanced social activities, including the wonderful outdoor concerts livestreamed to all.

“The absolute highlight of lockdown was the VE Day celebrations. Supported by Leeds Kollel and teenagers in the community, an afternoon tea with quizzes and games was delivered to all sheltered tenants while Rev Chait did his regular Kabbalat Shabbat with Jon Chamberlain from our garden in Skyte House. Residents watched from their flats and at a distance around the garden. This allowed kaddish to be said by some and the verse of We’ll Meet Again rang out. It was truly a special day.

“Special thanks goes to our CEO Mark Grandfield, for his calm and decisive leadership over this time.

“Although we have sadly lost some tenants, and our condolences and thoughts have been with their families, I know we have reassured many families that their loved ones are in safe hands.”

Vikki Helped the Elderly Back to their Feet

Vikki Norman – Physiotherapist

“As part of the physiotherapy team caring for elderly inpatients at St. James Hospital, we’ve been working with patients with Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak. The elderly are among the most vulnerable to the virus and the majority of our patients are over 80 years of age with lots of underlying health conditions.

“My role as a physiotherapist is to assess the functional needs of the patients and develop a treatment with realistic goals. Treatment will include exercises, mobilisation and ongoing rehabilitation with the aim of optimising function enabling the patient to return home and restore their quality of life. The longer patients spend in bed the more likely they will become deconditioned with loss of muscle mass, strength, balance and co-ordination.

“This has been a really challenging time in the hospital, but with the exceptional work of the multi-disciplinary teams and colleagues throughout the trust working in difficult and unaccustomed situations many patients have been successfully treated and rehabilitated and discharged home, although sadly this is not always the case.

“On a positive note there have been many learning points from this outbreak which can be used to improve how services are delivered in the hospital and we are certainly better placed to respond to a second wave, which hopefully won’t be the case.”

John Made Things Better by Design

While student projects were on hold in lockdown, the design technology workshop at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) stayed open for business in response to demand for vital personal protective equipment in healthcare settings.

The school’s head of design technology, John Bagshaw coordinated the production line, making use of equipment which would otherwise have been sitting idle after the students went home in late March. Initially John had three 3D printers working at full stretch to manufacture headbands for face visors. Within a couple of weeks, he boosted production by a further 100 visors a day using a new design that could be made on a laser cutter.

By mid-June, when the workshop was restored to use for the returning students in Years 10 and 12, John and his team had manufactured and despatched 4,000 face visors. In addition, GSAL donated over 500 pairs of protective glasses that would otherwise have been unused in the science labs.

John said: “In partnership with six other schools, we’ve provided PPE to 150 recipients including NHS providers, GP surgeries, pharmacies, police, shops, care homes and dentists, even posting items to London, Wales and Scotland. It’s been a magnificent effort by colleagues and students still attending school, who helped on the production line whenever they had time.”

Parents and friends of the school also rallied round to donate funds totalling £1,490 so that John could purchase the materials he needed.

The Shenderey Family Dressed to Impress

The Shenderey household have been dressing up every night of lockdown and sharing our photos on Facebook to raise over £3,000 for the Friends of Airedale charity. Keep your eyes peeled for our photo pages to see the pics!

Ellyse Showed her Mettle on the Pedals

Ellyse Jacobs cycled 26 miles to raise money for Kidney Cancer UK as part of the 2.6 challenge, a national effort to combat the catastrophic effect of thousands of fundraising events cancelled due to the pandemic.

Reuben Gave Up Chocolate to Bring Down Covid-19

Martin Daly – Grandfather to a chocaholic

“Brodetsky Primary School pupil Reuben Daly-Smith is a serious chocoholic. He had an idea to raise money for NHS Charities Together by being sponsored to take 20 days off from eating any chocolate (even his favourite cereal, Coco Pops!)

From what started as a bit of fun ended up with him raising over £700 in small donations from family, friends and Beaver leaders from Leeds and beyond.

Reuben has now celebrated with a Smarties chocolate cake made by his mum Alison and brother Monty.

David Kicked Covid-19 in the Balls

Jayne Wynick – Proud wife

Having set up the MAECare Extra Timers over 50s walking football team only months before the pandemic, David Wynick’s training sessions at Allerton Grange School were cut short. Ten sessions in and Government advice forced the 40 male and female players to hang up their boots.

But not content to wait it out, David delivered footballs and cones to any who wanted and posted training sessions online for all. When the weather was inclement, he set up weekly quizzes, instigating both individual and team leagues. Much fun was had by all, especially watching David’s various broadcasts from sheds, lofts and woods, dressed up and dressed down.

Socially distant training has now restarted outside in smaller groups, with David complying with the myriad of rules and regulations, allowing everyone to get out for some fun in the fresh air. Team spirit has never been better. Funded by MAECare through the Time to Shine fund, the project aims to reduce social isolation in Leeds’ over 50s. Determined to not let these aims fade away during the pandemic, David’s Facebook and Whatsapp groups have provoked much banter and laughter, ensuring the team stays together and he has also stayed in touch with players privately to ensure they were coping.

David is happy to welcome any men or women over 50 who wish join the Monday night sessions at King Alfred’s Field on Stonegate Road from 5pm to 6pm and 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

To join, call David on 07921 528499 or email

Sam Kept Things Kosher at Gourmet

Sam Brightbart – Deli Manager

At the beginning it was mental. The day after Boris Johnson’s first lockdown announcement, I was walking around the shop at six in the morning with a tape measure! Simon and Marshall offered a fantastic click and collect service from their pop-up shop, but they didn’t do refrigerated items. We’re the only kosher deli in the area and it was a couple of weeks before Passover, so we had panic buying on top of the usual Pesach stockpiling.

We’ve been here the whole time and not a single member of staff has missed a minute of work. Our butcher manager Ray has worked here for 40 years and was looking forward to a winding things down after dropping down to part-time hours! It felt like a life or death situation at the beginning, but the whole team: Glyn, Jon, John, Amanda, Cam, Brian and our apprentice Jordan, not forgetting the Shermans, have all been fantastic. Glynn and Ray are in their 60s and I have asthma, so there were times when we were afraid, but not one person complained.

The health and safety aspect has increased the workload and we’re closed on Mondays now just to replenish stock and deep clean. With many big supermarkets, the shoppers queue politely outside, but inside it’s mayhem – so here, we encourage customers to follow the rules.  It’s been hard work, but the feedback from the community has made it worthwhile. A lot of worried older people are saying this is the only shop they’ll visit, because their kids have told them it’s the safest place to be – so it’s nice to know the effort we’ve put into making the place Covid-secure has been appreciated.

We want to thank all our customers who have supported us and been compliant with our policy and the generosity of people helping each other with their shopping has been heart-warming. The shop has been running for over 100 years, so we weren’t going to shut without putting up a fight. But we must remember, the virus is still out there and we mustn’t get complacent.