A COMMUNITY support group which launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has received National Lottery funding and has plans to expand its services.

Westhoughton Community Assist Service originally began as a temporary group to help those who were struggling during the first lockdown, providing food parcels for those who were shielding or struggling financially.

But over a year later the group is still going strong and delivers around 100 food parcels a month to people in need within the area.

Recently the community interest company - which is applying for charitable status- acquired funding from the National Lottery which enabled them to buy a van to help collect and deliver food or larger donations, including furniture.

Janet Colley, who helped set up the service, said: "We started the group initially to do food shopping for people who were isolating or couldn't afford to buy food if they had lost their jobs - we first set up in my kitchen.

"None of knew this was going to last this long but as time went on it became apparent that many people were still struggling.

"Even those who've been able to return to work find that they can't make ends meet.

"We've stepped in with food parcels, but we also refer people to the correct service they need such as Bolton At Home. We work closely organisations like Urban Outreach too.

"We offer a wraparound service, some our volunteers run a buddy service where they ring those who are isolated.

"At the moment we're delivering around 100 parcels a month to families in need, so we applied to the National Lottery for funding for a van and it's enabled us to help even more people.

"It's great that we were able to get that funding and it shows how the National Lottery are helping local communities."

The service is currently based at The Hub in Central Drive, Westhoughton, however they need to move to new premises by the end of the month.

They are hoping that they can move to larger location and set up a shop that will benefit the local community.

Janet added: "Currently we have around 25 volunteers working with us, and we're looking for new premises to move into.

"Our next plan is to set a social community shop in a more central location in the town.

"We try to keep the service in Westhoughton but if we get any requests from elsewhere we always refer them to another service.

"One thing we're aware of is a lot of the people we help don't know how to make their money stretch with food, so we're guiding them with recipes and fresh food packs from Bolton Market.

"The service not only helps people, but it's brought the community together."