During the Covid-19 pandemic, local heroes have emerged to undertake acts of selflessness and kindness.

Andy Whitaker is the founder and director of Highly Strung, Cumbria’s most successful wedding band. And as a result of the pandemic, the group lost at least two years of business after all of their wedding bookings were postponed.

However, after deciding that he did not want to let the experience get the better of him, Andy vowed to give his time to volunteering to one of Carlisle’s most essential good causes – the Affordable Food Hub.

Andy has been a dedicated volunteer throughout the Covid crisis and is using the time freed up in his life to help others who are struggling during the pandemic.

“When my business was so catastrophically affected by the pandemic, I just wanted to keep myself and my family safe and well fed and this led to think there must be others far worse off than us, and my goodness I wasn’t wrong,” he said.

“Then I found this bunch of caring, thoughtful people who have been doing things like this for years. It is an honour to be part of this project, the team is just fabulous. Everyone pitches in and I feel positive energy from everyone which gives me an enormous sense of pride and worth.”

Karen Lockney of Carlisle Community Help's Affordable Food Hub hailed Andy’s service to the region’s most vulnerable, saying: “We have thanked many of our volunteers during the pandemic, and each and every one of them is part of what makes this possible. Carlisle should be proud of how so many of its residents have responded to this pandemic.”

“I think this is a case of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough help others less fortunate than themselves.”

Andy said the experience had been rewarding, despite the exposure to the ongoing impacts of the current crisis.

“The level of poverty and depression has soared and so many people get no social contact," he said. "Just to offer a friendly smile can make someone’s week. We would all benefit from donating a little time a week to see if we can help others, you never know it could change your life – I know it has mine.”