• Volunteers’ Week 2021 – Celebrating Community Transport’s Volunteers

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    • Volunteers’ Week 2021 – Celebrating Community Transport’s Volunteers

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    Volunteers have always been at the heart of the community transport sector. In organisations all across the UK they’ve shown time and again what an enormous difference they make, giving up their time to support their communities. During the past year, we’ve seen volunteers work tirelessly to make a difference in incredibly difficult circumstances, some out on the road, delivering food, medicine and essential journeys, and others from home, self-isolating but still calling passengers to keep their spirits up.

    This week (01 – 07 June) charities across the UK will be celebrating Volunteers’ Week – and we want to celebrate your volunteers, sharing their stories and talking about how important they are to our sector. A huge thank you to everyone who has already got in touch with us to share their stories – over the course of the week we’ll be posting them on social media, and on here, so keep checking back to hear more amazing stories about inspiring community transport volunteers!

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    Beth Hay Volunteer Co-ordinator, Aviemore Food Share Project.

    Story sent in by Maggie Lawson at Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport

    “Beth is in her 70’s, an absolute angel, she volunteers tirelessly 7 days a week for so many people. Even before she retired as a nurse, she selflessly assisted so many. She came onboard at the initial stages of lockdown, offering to help with anything we asked. Now Beth, runs the Food share with her team of volunteers; liaises with the Food Bank regularly; bakes weekly for people coming to the food share; supports a deaf-blind lady in sheltered housing; collects prescriptions; phones people who are isolated or lonely and transports people to appointments.

    Also not forgetting what she does for other local charities, she helps raise funds for the local Heart Start machines; organises volunteers for planting the floral displays in the village; organises and manages the Aviemore Xmas lunch for people who are on their own; and has been helping at the vaccine clinics. These are the ones I am aware of, there are probably lots more! Beth does so much for other people and takes nothing for herself; this would be wonderful if she could be mentioned as a “special volunteer”, she so deserves it, we love her passion to support people in need.” Maggie Lawson 

    “Volunteering with Where2Today makes me feel better being able to help those less fortunate than me, and to be able in these strange times to do this is amazing.” Beth Hay

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    Liesl Beckles, Volunteer Driver, HMR Circle Volunteer Driver Service

    Story sent in by Mary Burke, HMR Circle Volunteer Driver Service

    “Liesl joined the HMR Circle Volunteer Drivers Service as both a volunteer administrator and driver. As part of this role, Liesl was able to see the full process from the booking request through to the final journey. Since lockdown she has been assisting with the collection and delivery of prescription medication and also emergency shopping requests along with the delivery of craft packs, jigsaws and reading materials from the HMR Circle Reading Library. HMR circle have recently started a trial Dinner Driver Project delivering meals to members of the community. Liesl is now assisting the Chef in the preparation and cooking of these meals thus also learning valuable cookery skills.” Mary Burke

    “Volunteer driving helped me a great deal during lockdown because I was suffering with anxiety. I was unable to see my family but was still able to have face to face contact with lots of people when delivering food or prescriptions. Sometimes I would be the only person that they had seen so I was always happy to spend a few minutes chatting to check they were okay. When I wasn’t able to go out driving I rang Circle and VDS members to have a chat. Some of them I had never spoken to before but they were all so friendly and grateful that I had rang. I got just as much out of these conversations as they did. It was really good to be able to start driving my regulars again especially when they were so excited to be going to the hairdressers after so long. I am now also volunteering at the Drivers Kitchen and being taught how to cook by a professional Chef!” Liesl Beckles

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    Chris Heap, Volunteer Driver, HMR Circle Volunteer Drivers Service.

    Story sent in by Mary Burke, HMR Circle Volunteer Driver Service

    “Chris joined the HMR Circle Volunteer Drivers Service in January 2020, just before the first lockdown. His main role was that of providing transport for our members many of whom are vulnerable to attend Medical appointments, Adult Care Day Centre’s Luncheon Clubs, Shopping and much more. Since lockdown began, Chris has volunteered tirelessly and with commitment and dedication to ensure the wellbeing of the residents of our community during lockdown. He has devoted his time to covering the collection of prescriptions and emergency food shopping and also with the delivery of Craft Packs to give a little cheer and morale boost to those in isolation. Chris has covered many of these request with very little notice and has gone above and beyond the role of volunteer driver.” Mary Burke

    “I have been a volunteer driver since January 2020 which is something that I really enjoy doing. My role covers taking our VDS members many of whom are vulnerable to various appointments which can be anything from hospital appointments to simply collecting prescriptions. I have even collected prescriptions from the vets for one of our members pets. I enjoy the company of our members and the chats we have on the way to and from their various appointments and also trying to make them as comfortable as possible so they can relax and enjoy themselves as well and to make sure they all get home safely once their appointment has been completed. The majority of our members have been in isolation and like everyone else had limited contact with their family and friends which has for many increased levels of anxiety. Even attending an important medical appointment has become a major obstacle for many. Things have changed a lot over the past 12 months with the pandemic, from not being able to cover any actually passenger pick ups for the first part of the Pandemic (March – June) to being able to get back to the “new normal” albeit with having to adhere to a change in regulations such as the wearing of face masks during the journey, passengers having to sit in the rear of the vehicle behind the front passenger seat and also the sanitization of the vehicle before, and after each journey which all of our members have had to adapt to and most have done so without any problem. Despite all of this it gives me great satisfaction knowing how much we have been able to help the members of our community through these difficult times and also knowing how much they have appreciated what we do for them.” Chris Heap

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    John Cronin, Volunteer Driver, Norwich Door to Door.

    Story sent in by Kathleen Shirley at Norwich Door to Door

    “John joined our team of volunteers in 2013 having taken early retirement and in need of something to keep him busy. He was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community and something that would make a difference both to himself and others. He volunteers regularly for Norwich Door to Door, giving two days a week to drive our elderly and disabled passengers to lunch and social clubs, to the supermarket and to attend health appointments. However, it is his efforts during the pandemic that have really shone. All our volunteers have done fantastic work to help out where they could during the Covid crisis but John has been instrumental in assisting Norwich Door to Door get its community engagement bus project, More to Door, off the ground. He has been the go-to driver, ensuring the M2D team could visit people isolated and confined to their homes during lockdowns, bringing books and puzzles and other useful items to them. He has brightened the day of many of our service users with his cheeky sense of humour and happy disposition and in our opinion, it is definitely worth celebrating the superb work he has done.” Kathleen Shirley

    “Being a volunteer, working as part of a team, gives me great satisfaction and doing something very worthwhile for the community and being able to help others is so rewarding.” John Cronin

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    Stephen Smith and Bret Stone, Volunteer Drivers, Pilton Equalities Project

    Story sent in by Diane Palmer at Pilton Equalities Project

    “When the pandemic closed down our usual clubs and activities, we set about to help our community by working with partner organisations and setting up the PEP Centre as a food distribution hub. Over the last year, we have delivered over 114,000 cooked meals and distributed over 9000 meals in food parcels to local people experiencing food poverty. In addition, we have created and distributed over 2000 activity packs. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication from our volunteers including Stephen and Bret. They undertook this ambitious project with kindness, compassion and commitment. They have been involved in delivering and distribution since March 2020. Recipients express how grateful they are for the support which is always provided with a smile and professionalism while adhering to strict Covid safety rules. They have been extremely dependable and flexible in what has been a challenging environment” Diane Palmer

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    Barry, Hazel and Eileen, Volunteer Drivers, Stockport Car Scheme

    Story sent in by Sue Peck, Stockport Car Scheme

    Barry and Hazel are a married couple who have driven for the car scheme for over 15 years.  They drive every week day and have recommended friends over the years to come and volunteer for us.  Hazel has many regulars who she takes to day centres and shopping as well as other clients to local medical appointments.   

    Barry is happy to drive wherever we send him and is always keen to offer support and get to know the clients.  Lots of clients ask for Barry as he know his way around all the hospitals and clinics and is happy to offer advice to our newer drivers.” Sue Peck

    I like to take time to get to know the people I take regularly,” said Hazel. Sadly people who you have seen for years die, which takes time to get over. But I could write a book about the characters I’ve had in my car. You can’t beat elderly people for surprising you with rude jokes & life stories. More people should volunteer it’s good feeling.”

    Eileen has been a driver for us for over 20 years and is our longest serving volunteer.   Eileen is a carer and has always been happy to go anywhere with a client and is not fazed by driving into the middle of Manchester.  She has built up friendships with lots of our clients and is and enthusiastic participant in all our social events.  She has seen lots of changes in the scheme over the years and is a very popular member of our team.” Sue Peck

    I really enjoy transporting people to their various appointments,” said Eileen, “and they’re all very appreciative of the help. During the first lock down I couldn’t drive, and I really missed it.” 

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    Jim, Jane, John and Jim, Volunteer Drivers, Larkhall and District Volunteer Group

    Story sent in by Jacqueline Gallacher, LDVG

    “It has been an extraordinary year for our volunteer drivers as for many of us. Jim, Jane, Jon and Jim were part of a team supporting key workers by driving them to their place of work at the NHS Distribution Centre Larkhall, this service operated over 24 weeks, covering 5 days and 2 different shift patterns playing a key part in supporting the NHS. It is important to recognise and celebrate volunteer’s contributions.” Jacqueline Gallacher

    “In every community there is work to be done and at LDVG there are a lot of people to help.” Jim McCan and Jim Hamilton 

    “Volunteering as a driver for the NHS helped me just as much as it helped them. It gave structure to my days and made sure I always knew what day of the week it was. I did the early shift and it reassured me to see signs that others were still going to work at that time. People walking their dogs would wave to me and the sense of community really raised my spirits in that uncertain time.” Jane Hamilton 

    “Helping others is just part of who I am.” John Porter 

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    Trev, Volunteer Driver and IT Whiz, Green Community Travel

    Story sent in by Jenny Bright, Green Community Travel

    “Trev has been with us since 2016 and is a super human being! When he joined us he was actually working full time and we’re still not sure how he found time to do all he did! As well as helping us with driving he is also a member of our management committee and also helps us with lots of IT woes! He has made promotional material for us including our amazing video showing what we did through COVID. He is now also employed as a passenger assistant but still volunteers on weekends and in between shifts for us. He always brings cheer to the office and keeps us going with hot drinks!” Jenny Bright 

    “When our passengers worried if they would even get to their appointments, would they be safe, would anyone help them? To be able to reassure them that YES, WE would. That we’re still here just as before and we would take care of them. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to put so many people’s minds at rest during that time. Despite everything else wrong in the world, by taking them to and from their various hospital appointments we were able to remove a burden from their shoulders, one less thing to worry about. In turn they actually helped me. Giving me a reason to get out into the world again. To do something that mattered and made a real difference to people & for that I am grateful. In 2020 GCT never stopped. Through thick and thin it was there for its service users, as it has been for 3 decades, to help people.” Trev

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    Ann, Rob and Babs, Volunteer Drivers, Stockport Car Scheme

    Story sent in by Sue Peck, Stockport Car Scheme

    “Ann came to us over 5 years ago when she took early retirement as a maths teacher. She is very bright and breezy and cheers us all up when she pops into the office.  She does lots of shopping for us with her clients who look on her as a friend and she enables them to live independently by taking them out to the shops which is lovely for them to get out in a safe way.  She will also do anything else we throw at her and always with a smile and with enthusiasm.” Sue Peck 

    “I would like to add what I’ve got out of volunteering, especially during the pandemic,” said Ann. I have met lovely and interesting people with many a fascinating story to tell. Volunteering during the pandemic has given me a reason to leave the house and I feel I’ve got as much out of it as the client. It’s been especially important as I live on my own. The office staff have always been there for the support we need them. Finally, I would recommend bring a volunteer driver for anyone with a few hours to spare and a car.”

    “Babs is one of our newer drivers, she came to us when we did a zoom presentation during lockdown to a social group.  She had recently retired and was looking to volunteer and when she heard about the car scheme she contacted us.  She is very popular driver who gets lots of compliments from the people to helps.  She loves getting to know the clients and building up relationships with them.” Sue Peck

    “I think my main memories have been the pleasure of being able to spend time with older people,” said Babs, “some of whom had not been out of the house since the beginning of the pandemic, and chatting to them about their lives, especially a 98 year old chap who told me about his wartime experiences.  The other thing was getting a tap on my window at one of the clinics and it was a volunteer with my lady who had forgotten where I had parked and what my car was, her only memory was that I was a lady with bright red hair!” 

    “Following retirement in 2015,” said Rob, “I decided to use my spare time as a volunteer driver for Stockport Car Scheme.  This has been an amazing, rewarding and fulfilling experience.   

    Until I started as a volunteer, I never appreciated the problems many people experienced when travelling to various appointments whether they were medical or social.  Regular visits to the local hospitals, clinics and surgeries are now a routine matter but what makes them so special for all the drivers is the belief that we are providing a unique service that enhances and improves the quality of life of our clients.   Now many restrictions are being relaxed, I can look forward to taking clients to see friends, visit hairdressers and attend social functions which until recently were not allowed. 

    The most rewarding aspect of being a volunteer is the appreciation of the service we provide.  Clients are always grateful that we are freely donating our spare time to help them and this means so much to me when I hear the words, “thank you”.  These words make the problems of traffic, parking, getting lost (it happens), seem minor inconveniences and hardly noticeable.   

    Often there is a need to be something more than a driver because some clients need extra assistance in getting from their home to my vehicle.  Lending a supporting hand is greatly appreciated.  Securing the house, locking doors and checking the client has not forgotten keys or medication is normal procedure and I feel honoured to be trusted with this responsibility. 

    During the 5 years I have been a volunteer driver I have been privileged to meet many fascinating characters.  Everyone I transport has a story to tell and I have been fascinated listening to tales of life in India and Africa,  the services, working in schools, the old mills and other factories, managing companies and being in academia when one client mentioned in passing that she worked in nuclear physics.  The car radio is not turned on – the conversation is far more interesting. The pleasure and satisfaction I get from helping others is I am sure shared by my fellow drivers who all freely give up their spare time to provide this invaluable service.” 

    Share your Volunteers’ Week Story

    Quentin, John, Ann and Eric, Volunteer Drivers, Larkhall and District Volunteers Group

    Story sent in by Jacqueline Gallacher, LDVG

    “LDVG worked alongside the Covid-19 Rainbows Larkhall Community group & Heart of Africa UK, Heart of Africa had been producing close to 100 meals a day from the LDVG kitchen for members of the community, with priority for those who were shielding. As it has been an extraordinary year for our volunteer drivers as for many of us. Quintin, John, Ann and Eric played remarkable roles as a drivers, delivering hot meals, food parcels, activity packs (children and adults), prescription & collecting food donations giving support as and when needed. It is important to recognise and celebrate volunteer’s contributions.” Jacqueline Gallacher

    “Delivering meals across Larkhall has not only helped the local community but helps to keep me focused.” Quintin Cassidy 

    “Volunteering with LDVG gives me a good feel factor and being part of the local community knowing that I’m helping other people get out and about ,seeing a smile on peoples faces makes it all worth while.” John Cowan

    “Helping people and giving my time is a big part of my life, volunteering with LDVG allows me to reach out to more people.” Ann Rodger

    “It has given me a sense of purpose, being able to give something back to the Community. The expressions of gratitude that you get from the service users is very humbling as well as gratifying. You get the opportunity to make and meet new friends who are all like minded. I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who has an interest in joining a friendly and worthwhile group.” Eric Budgell 

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    The Volunteers of Community Action Ledbury

    Story sent in by John Critoph, Community Action Ledbury

    “Ledbury is a small market town located in Herefordshire on the Worcestershire and Gloucestershire borders. As the virus took a firm grip of the country and many became self-isolating and housebound. We saw out minibus business grind to a halt with the exception of the community bus serving an isolated community several miles outside the town with no alternative public transport. Our ring and ride car service was reduced to medical appointments only and with many of our volunteer drivers over 70 and stood down we were very limited on our regulars.

    A plea was posted on the local Facebook page and as a result a new COVID-19 group was started. The town really pulled together with over 100 volunteers stepping forward initially with more to follow over the coming weeks and months. We soon had every house and road covered and we set about the task of letting people know what we can offer. We made the services available to anyone within the town and surrounding parishes.

    We, like so many CTs across the UK provided a shopping service, a postal service, a food bank delivery service, a prescription collection  and delivery service we even walked a couple of people’s dogs for them! We set up a team of volunteers contacting members of our scheme and making sure they were OK. We teamed up with the local churches promoting a listening line for those feeling isolated and alone. We adapted the services as the guidelines changed and as soon as we could we were back providing school bus services (rather than a skeleton drive for the few children of key workers requiring schooling), mini trips and shopping trips to the neighbouring retail park. Now as the country begins to open up our services are following.

    All of the volunteers have been amazing turning out in all weathers often with very short notice to support those living in and around Ledbury. Not one of our volunteers wanted to be named or photographed and in days of social distancing it would be very difficult to do a group shot even if we could get them together in one place at one time. Many have so enjoyed the experience of volunteering they have signed up and now volunteer for us on a regular basis. The positive point that has come from the world crisis is it has bought out the best in people and has brought a community closer together in a time when we were socially distancing. CAL and its team of volunteers most definitely were putting the heart in Ledbury.” John Critoph

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    Les Maddox and Peter Clutton, Volunteer Driers, Stockport Car Scheme

    Story sent in by Sue Peck, Stockport Car Scheme

    Les Maddox and Peter Clutton are two stalwart volunteers with Stockport Community Car Scheme. Both joined the scheme when they retired from challenging jobs, seeking ways in which they could feel useful and do some good in their local area. Les, 72, has been driving for the scheme five days a week for the last ten years. “I’m a good talker and a good listener,” said Les, “and I love the company. It’s helped me to have structure in my week and have a purpose, knowing that I’m doing something good to help people here.” Similarly, Peter, 68, got involved when his wife saw a poster in the local GP surgery advertising for drivers. “My knowledge of local history has come on leaps and bounds since I started volunteering,” he said. “I love hearing people’s stories and giving a little bit of help when it’s needed – one of my regular passengers is in her 90s and drove for meals on wheels until she was 85. It’s about time someone looked after her rather than the other way around!”

    Both of their roles changed during the first lockdown however, and being unable to run their usual journeys had a significant effect both on them, as well as their passengers. Due to being over 70, Les wasn’t able to continue volunteering during the height of the pandemic. “It was very difficult in lockdown,” said Les, “and a lot of people including me were very lonely.” Keen to get back to supporting the people that have come to rely on his friendly face and caring attitude however, he’s been getting back to doing what he does best. “I’ve started visiting some of my regular passengers to chat with them over the fence,” he said. Peter’s role during lockdown has been delivering PPE and collecting prescriptions for locals who are shielding and he was also able to take passengers on essential trips to medical appointments. “It’s nice to be the reassuring and friendly face for someone going to a hospital, or to the doctors” he said, “especially in these times of heightened anxiety.” Story originally published in the Autumn 2020 issue of Together.

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    Bill, Bill and John, Green Community Travel

    Story sent in by Jenny Bright, Green Community Travel

    “Bill is one of our Voluntary Car Drivers and does a large amount of journeys for us each month. His kindness is evident for all to see and passengers appreciate his chats and the care he takes with them. He has a very infectious smile which cheers all of us up on days when things are getting a bit stressful! Bill really missed volunteering during the pandemic and was counting down the days until he could return. It’s been wonderful to have him back, he was missed a lot by the staff and passengers alike!” Jenny Bright

    “I love volunteering, I wanted to give something back after having ill health myself. When I joined GCT I found a family and I really enjoy it, it feels like always being around friends.” Bill 

    “As well as having volunteers that drive our minibuses and cars, and their own cars, our Management Committee are also volunteers. Another of our volunteers, also called Bill, has been on our committee for some time, he has been a Trustee as well as Vice Chair and he may also be the Secretary in the near future. Bill is also a passenger so he brings really valuable input to our committee, his previous job also gives us a really valuable insight as he was involved in consultations and negotiations in British Rail. A huge virtual round of applause to Bill who helps us so much to ensure GCT can keep running smoothly the committee is such an important part of GCT and although a lot of the work they do is behind the scenes it is really vital.” Jenny Bright

    “Taking early retirement in my 50s I undertook voluntary work almost immediately involving myself with 2 or 3 charities over a 30 year period. My sole aim is to put something back into society, it is imperative a continued flow of such individuals takes place for the voluntary sector to survive.” Bill

    “John is a Voluntary Car Driver and has been with us since 2018. We are so grateful to John for all the help he gives us, we are so lucky to have him as part of our team. John lives outside of Yate so we can give passengers out of Yate an option of a driver that would be a shorter amount of miles from his home to theirs. Passengers always comment on how pleasant and friendly John is and we love listening to his stories when he comes into the office! GCT is so lucky to have John as a member of our team, a huge virtual round of applause for John!” Jenny Bright

    “I used to work in a very busy sales job! When I retired I wanted something to keep my mind active and wanted to do something worthwhile. I enjoy meeting new people and doing a worthwhile, valued job, helping vulnerable people at a low cost to them.” John

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    The Volunteers of the African Community Centre

    Story sent in by Emily Dougherty, African Community Centre

    “Some, but certainly not all, of our amazing drivers include: Jan Morgan 71, Rob Evans 45, Sonia Beck 53, Phil Murphy 67, Jim Downey 68, Sibusisiwe Mbwembwe 42, Jill Duarte 74,  and Marc Thomas 45.

    Before Covid-19, our volunteer drivers would drive asylum seekers to vital services like education and medical appointments as well as social opportunities. As our drivers drive their own vehicles, where it is impossible to social distance, at the start of the pandemic we decided to restrict journeys to medical appointments until Government restrictions ease. However, over the last 15 months our drivers still made hundreds of other journeys delivering food parcels, toiletries, period poverty products, clothes, baby and toddler items, fitness packs, ICT/digital poverty devices, medicine and ad hoc items as requested. Some drivers volunteered to continue to carry passengers for medical appointments/vaccine appointments and were quick to adhere to the new health and safety and PPE requirements with zero complaints. During this isolating and sometimes frightening time, our clients were overjoyed that our drivers could continue to support them. This was especially true for single parents with children, people who were isolating and those who faced illness or have a disability. Our drivers have been compassionate, dedicated, flexible and generous with their time during the last 12 months and have made a massive impact on the lives of our clients. Our organisation is so lucky to have them as a part of our team.” Emily Dougherty 

    ‘It’s been great being able to be of service to others’, ‘I enjoy delivering to asylum seekers, and meeting them on their doorstep’, ‘I feel a great sense of purpose’, ‘I am more self aware’, ‘I’ve met some really lovely service users, and felt useful at a very strange time in our lives. Joined a terrific network in ACC, who in turn have hooked me up with Iberian Latin American Association Of Wales. As a result I have made contacts and kept up my Spanish through the conversation club’, ‘As I have said before, anything I can do help just let me know’, ‘I feel I am doing something so worthwhile whilst forging more friendships’. Quotes from ACC Volunteers

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    Colin Birtles, Volunteer Driver at Stockport Car scheme

    “I have so many stories, tales and incidents that have happened over the last 10-12 years. The reason I elected to join this merry bad of volunteers was one of daytime boredom and perhaps as sense of putting something back into society which has been very kind to me over the years. Whilst I enjoy a busy social life I still look forward to meeting those varied folks and get a feel-good sense from helping those not as mobile as myself and for the many tributes these people put forward to the drivers and staff of the Stockport Car Scheme.

    One of my better feelings which characterise our service came early last December, when I called to collect a lady from Cheadle Hulme – she lived alone – had not been out of the house since the previous March – had 2 sons living abroad who rarely contacted her – she had a dental appointment. Dressed in her finery – she was delighted to be out of the house after all those months – the first person I have every met who was looking forward to visiting the dentist! I took the lady one way- brought her back another way just to show her something of the outside world. I later had the pleasure of delivering to her our Christmas hamper – courtesy of AGE UK.

    I have met so many people with different life stories and I have been honoured to have helped them in some tiny way – I could write a book!

    On another occasion I collected a gentleman from Cheadle on the morning of his 90th birthday – on leaving the health centre he asked if I would drive down a nearby street where his granddaughter lived – this must have been pre-arranged – because lining the pavement were his kin – granddaughter, husband and 3 small children and most of the near-neighbors waving banners and rattles.  There followed a volley of presents thrust through the car window – mostly cheese said the 90-year-old after telling me of his fondness for savouring the world’s cheeses. I felt like the Queen’s chauffer! Then there is the woman whose life is totally controlled by a scruffy little dog – but that’s another story.Colin

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