THE Home Secretary has paid tribute to Witham's heroic volunteers who are supporting vulnerable people and families during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Witham Community Hub has now dealt with more than 10,000 requests for help since it launched its support network - Pay it Forward - back in March.

At the height of the pandemic, volunteers at the hub were helping 550 families each week by delivering essentials such as medicines and food.

Supermarkets based in the town, such as Tesco and Morrisons, have been working with the hub to provide free meals and it is estimated around 13,500 items of food has been used which would have otherwise been wasted.

After making a visit to the hub last week, Witham's MP Priti Patel said: "These are very impressive statistics and it was an honour and a pleasure to meet the people who have been working so hard behind the scenes to look after the most vulnerable in our community during the pandemic crisis.

"We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their time and efforts, often given at some personal risk.

"The same applies to key workers who have stayed at their posts during this difficult time, to ensure that we were able to buy food and life’s other necessities.

"It has been heart-warming to see the community pulling together with willing volunteers and donations both of food and cash to support this excellent project, when the chips were literally down."

The hub has meanwhile received a boost this week after it was able to raise £3,000 and secure a new air conditioning unit.

The original unit broke last year and the hub said it was desperate to secure a new one after the temperature in the office hit 40C the other day.

The charity was able to raise the cash in a matter of days after donations flooded in from the public.

Scott Foord also donated £750 through his Witham-based company, ERE.

Hub trustee Tina Townsend said: "We can't thank Scott enough for this wonderful gesture.

"We weren't able to have the old unit fixed and no grant funding was available because it is all being used for coronavirus.

"It's been really hard work working in the office during the summer so we are incredibly grateful.

"I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone else who donated and gave money for the new air conditioning.

"It will make a big difference to all of the volunteers who will keep doing everything they can to help the vulnerable during this pandemic."