Charlie is a former chef and volunteer driver in one of our Stockton groups. He has been a driver since 2015 and has established strong bonds with the members of his group. Here he shares with us what volunteering means to him.
I gave up my career as a Head Chef to become a full time carer for my then disabled partner. After she died, after only three months of marriage, in December 2015, I saw an advert on the television by Bisto promoting Spare Chair Sunday. This was to invite lonely, older people to share a Sunday lunch. I decided to apply and the team at Contact the Elderly got in touch to say they were in the process of setting up a new regular group in Stockton.
I have now been a member of the group for three years. I enjoy bringing a little bit of joy to people's lives. I love hearing about the guests’ lives and meeting the other volunteers. I have made some really great friends.
I feel happy that I have, with the help of our other group members, made a difference to our guests lives. I also feel sad that I will not see our guests for another month, wondering if they are lonely and okay. All of our guests are so appreciative of our efforts. They say that it is fantastic to meet new friends and have a good natter over a cup of tea.
I have made some really good friends over the last three years, both group members and guests.Firstly, there is Maureen, who I have driven to the gatherings since the group started. I see her around town a lot and we always stop to have a little chat. Then there is Alan who is 92. He is the only male member of the group and we seem to have hit it off quite well.
A few months back, Alan was admitted to hospital for a few weeks, I among others of the group visited him as often. We had a few good chats, one to one which made a big difference. I seemed to get to know a great deal more about him. When he left hospital he was quite frail, so I phoned him, called round for a chat and also took him into Stockton so that he could sort out his finances. I also took him for some biscuits and toffees to stock up on.
I now realise joining a Contact the Elderly group has helped me to meet new people after the death of my wife. After leaving work some years earlier, I had lost touch with my work colleagues and friends.
If someone asked me to help them decide if to become a volunteer, I would say, give it a try. You will be amazed by how much you get in return from giving a few hours once a month. Good friends, interesting people and of course hot tea, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits.