IT WAS an article in the Examiner that prompted retired structural engineer David Greenfield to volunteer his services as a gardener at the Beechwood home for disabled adults in Edgerton.
With more time on his hands and a desire to help others he now visits the Leonard Cheshire disability home twice a week and spends time with residents as well as working out of doors.
“I get a sense of wellbeing from it,” he said, “because I’m doing something useful.”
As well as creating a small allotment area and helping to tend the Edgerton home’s vast gardens, David, 64, who lives in Meltham, plays chess and dominoes with residents. “It’s good therapy for me, and for them,” he said.
He works particularly closely with one of the residents, Andrew Walker, and there are plans to grow fruit and vegetables that can be harvested and eaten in the home.
“I’ve got an allotment and I enjoy seeing things grow so I thought it would be beneficial for the residents to have their own plot,” said David.
Until a year ago the Beechwood home had just one volunteer, although many of the care and ancillary staff gave and still give their spare time voluntarily.
Newly-appointed volunteer coordinator Pat Whalley set about expanding the volunteer programme for the charity and today there are 35 volunteers of all ages on the register.
To reward the dedication of the volunteers, Pat recently staged an ‘Oscars’ ceremony, which she called the ‘Golden Leonards’.
“We just wanted to say thank you to the people who give their time – they do everything from driving our minibus and cleaning out residents’ pets to producing our newsletter and spending time with the residents,” said Pat.
Quite clearly volunteering has a feelgood factor and all of the helpers I spoke to said they “loved” or “absolutely loved” visiting the home.
Among the younger volunteers receiving an award were Charlie Ruttle, 17, from Almondbury, and Megan Spencer, also 17, from Slaithwaite. Both students at Greenhead College, they applied to spend their enrichment time there as volunteers.
Charlie enjoys interacting with the residents and says he aims to train as an occupational therapist. “My mum is a nurse and so I’ve spent a lot of time in nursing homes and knew what to expect,” he said. “I love being here and talking to people and making their lives a bit more enjoyable.”
Megan had intended to study medicine at university and thought volunteering in the home would be good experience.
Although she has now decided to pursue a degree in chemistry she has continued as a volunteer because she loves it so much.
Sisters Mavis Thomas and Christine Prentice have had a long association with the home.
Mavis, from Crosland Moor, is a retired care assistant and worked at Beechwood for 27 years, while Christine, from Bradley, has been a cleaner supervisor there for 16 years.
“We’ve done all sorts over the years,” said Mavis. “We’ve taken the residents on day trips and shopping trips as well as working here.
“Working here full time we never thought about the extra hours because we enjoyed it.”
Beechwood’s sole outside volunteer a year ago was Marlene Lumb, who ‘enlisted’ two years ago after retiring from a printing company. She spends eight hours a week playing dominoes with residents, helping them on the computer and assisting resident Tim Owen with his weekly quiz.
Although the pool of volunteers has now grown, Pat says more are always welcome.
“We’re in need of more drivers for our minibus,” she said. “We’ll provide the training.”
Anyone interested in joining the volunteers should contact Pat on 01484 429626 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The full list of those who received ‘Golden Leonards’ is:
Marlene Lumb, Mavis Thomas, Christine Prentice, Salman Khalid, Anne Meikle, David Greenfield, Tim Owen, Bob Wainwright, Rebecca Purchon, David Breen, Rachel Hall, Max Kaye, Charlie Ruttle, Megan Spencer, the Walker family.
Staff members Jackie Munro and Rose Bower were awarded certificates of excellence.
THE Leonard Cheshire Beechwood home in Huddersfield is part of an international organisation founded by the late Group Caption Lord Cheshire of Woodhall, a famous war hero in 1948.
After caring for injured servicemen and women at the end of the Second World War, Leonard Cheshire discovered that those who were terminally ill had nowhere to go.
He ended up caring for them in his own house, which became the first disability home.
Today the organisation runs 150 services for disabled people in the UK and another 100 in 55 countries worldwide.