There’s no better time to say thank you…

More than 100 volunteers giving nearly 6,000 minutes a week to lonely, isolated older people are being celebrated by a major Sheffield charity.

Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC) says there has never been a more important time to recognise the contribution of its army of volunteers, many of whom have been providing a vital lifeline to dozens of older people during the pandemic.

From food and prescription drop offs, to phone calls and pen pal letters, the charity is giving thanks to its 113 unpaid helpers who give their time freely to support their communities.

The majority of the charity’s volunteers are dedicated to its flagship Good Neighbour Scheme, with some on hand for its A&E to Home and Hospital to Home schemes and for ongoing fundraising and administration support.

Mark Storey, CEO at SCCCC, said: “Our volunteers are at the heart of SCCCC, they are crucial partners in our mission to help older people in the city. Last year, they carried out thousands of hours of friendly visiting to help combat loneliness and isolation among older people.

“The pandemic has caused many obstacles, but our volunteers have adapted well, replacing their weekly visits with telephone calls, staying in touch with their service user.

“We also launched our pen pal scheme and so far our volunteers have provided us with more than 170 items of correspondence which have made a big difference to older people feeling isolated while shielding.

“Without our volunteers, our charity would not be the charity we are today. We thank each and every one of them from the bottom of our hearts.”

Tom Lee has been volunteering for the charity since 2018. He said: “I have always been acutely aware about the issue of loneliness. One Christmas, I read an article about the issue and realised how many people throughout the UK are in fact lonely and in desperate need of companionship.

“Following an internet search, I came across SCCCC and the next day I arranged to meet with somebody at the charity to obtain some more details about how I might be able to help. After an initial meeting and formal induction, I was paired with a service user, called Alice.

“Over the course of the next year or so, I visited Alice once a week for roughly an hour each visit. Our relationship blossomed as the months went on, with me getting as much from the visits as Alice did. Sadly, Alice became quite unwell and so we agreed to stop my visits. I was then matched with John.

“John’s a real character. On my first visit, ready prepped with a variety of ice-breakers and back-up stories about my own life in the event John was not very forthcoming, John opened the door to me and declared, “I’m 94 and I’m going for the 100 so I can get my letter from her Majesty!”. I instantly liked John. What a life he’s had.

“As a volunteer for SCCCC, I feel valued. The staff are always grateful for the time I give, and they continuously provide support for me as and when I may need it. They have also allocated me a supervisor who I can contact any time to discuss anything relating to my visits.

“SCCCC is not a one-dimensional charity. In addition to the Good Neighbour Scheme which I am a part of, they offer a range of other services that are available for anybody who wishes to utilise them. They also arrange various fundraising activities which anybody can get involved with - including social events where fellow volunteers and staff can get to know each other - sometimes involving Gin which can never be a bad thing!

“I continue to enjoy my time volunteering.  The positive impact that one hour a week could have on somebody’s life is immeasurable. Maybe one day, the roles will be reversed, and I’ll be elderly, lonely, with minimal contact with other people. If that happens, I’ll be glad there are charities such as SCCCC to give me a new lease of life in an otherwise lonely world.”

SCCCC was awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2017, the highest honour a charity can receive.

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