IT IS in these times of hardship that the people of Monmouthshire have pulled together and shown great strength in community.

For Bernie Dawson from Caerwent, who is an ex-police officer having retired from service six years ago, it has been a case of remembering what he learned to help people avoid scammers.

“I started a group last Monday after realising how much of a haven this had become for fraudsters,” Mr Dawson explained. “I suggested we had one leaflet placed in every home to provide a safer way of supporting our vulnerable friends.

“I was astonished with the support we’ve received from the community and the community council, who organised a meeting urgently and funded the initiative.

Free Press Series: Bernie DawsonBernie Dawson

“By Thursday we’d designed a leaflet, gathered a body of volunteers, and had the first leaflets delivered to 95 per cent of homes in Crick.”

Speaking about what the community has gained from the experience, he added: “I have no words to describe their immense character. I am an ex-copper who used to do a lot of this, and this is the quickest I have ever known an initiative to be up and running.”

Michael James, a personal trainer from Abergavenny, is offering free exercise classes for children via Facebook Live every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2pm.

Explaining why he decided to do the free classes, he said: “I wanted to give something back to the community and with the nature of my job and my wife being a teacher, you realise even more how important exercise is for kids, for their mental wellbeing as well as physical.”

Free Press Series: Michael JamesMichael James

Parents can tune via MJ Health and Fitness Personal Training Studio on Facebook, and can also watch it back.

Another Facebook group, ‘Chepstow Covid 19 Helping Group’, was started by Helen Child Villiers on March 15 with the aim of pulling together a small group of volunteers.

Within six days the page had over 2,300 members and 120 volunteers, and has been funded by the town council with he help of Transition Chepstow.

Ms Villiers said: “The response from the community has been overwhelming.

“I’m so grateful to the amazing teams we’ve set up for all their hard work and commitment.”

If you need advice on gardening during sunny days in isolation, Alex Davies at Raglan Garden Centre is providing free advice on how to look after your own patch, as well as free delivery to the over-70s.

Free Press Series: Alex DaviesAlex Davies

“A lot of hard work has gone into connecting the garden centre with the community, and we have a lot of older visitors who we felt needed the chance to get out in their gardens at this time,” he said.

“We have started the delivery service and we’re also uploading advice videos soon to help people look after their patches and hopefully bring some joy to people’s lives.”

Gwent Young Farmers Club (YFC), who have groups in Usk and Abergavenny, have advertised their help throughout the region.

Free Press Series: Gwent YFCGwent YFC

Member Jemma Rodgers said: “We all know it’s going to get worse and we need our communities to know that our members are ready to help.

“YFC is a huge part of the rural community and we rely the support of the local community.”