Winter campaign to put people in touch

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THIS month Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) launches its third Surviving Winter Campaign, to help people in the city, and across the county, cope with the winter weather.

The foundation launched the Jubilee Fund for Oxfordshire in January, in recognition of the Queen’s commitment to the voluntary sector.

One of its aims is to encourage everyone to give up their time to work as a volunteer to help the elderly, people with disabilities, those in temporary need through illness, or anyone who may be isolated.

This week, the campaign is highlighting the work of Volunteer Link-Up West Oxfordshire.

Caring for a severely disabled son alone can be hard work for Joy Cable, but luckily her volunteer befriender Freda Ellis is there to listen and offer support.

Now the organisation which brought them together is looking for more people like Freda, who are willing to give up their spare time and make a difference to someone’s life.

Mrs Cable, 57, from Witney, has been the sole carer for her son Glen, 30, who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound, since the death of her husband last year.

She said: “The only time I am out of the house is for my work as a school dinner lady, and caring for Glen can be hard at times, so having someone like Freda who comes around for a cup of tea and a chat is absolutely lovely.”

Freda Ellis, 64, also from Witney, started volunteering two years ago and has been spending time with Joy for about a year.

She said: “After retiring as a school secretary I found I had a lot of time on my hands and I wanted to help people.

“Joy and I met about a year ago and we get together for a couple of hours each Monday afternoon. She is an amazing lady. She has a lot to contend with, but makes nothing of it – I am just there for her to chat with and lend an ear and I feel I get back more than I give.”

Patricia Chirgwin, manager of Volunteer-Link Up (West Oxfordshire), said: “Volunteer Link-Up was set up in 1983 and today helps 700 clients across West Oxfordshire, matching them with a huge variety of volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life.

“In terms of clients, we have all sorts of people with all sorts of needs – people like Joy, who is a carer and appreciates time chatting and a kind ear; others who need transport to see loved ones, or to medical appointments and also those who need help with their gardens, or just someone to go for a walk with.”

She added: “I’m very proud to say that we have around 180 volunteers – from young sixth formers at Wood Green and Henry Box School, to young mums whose children are at school, people who are retired and even those who still work full time.

“But we need many more and we are hoping that while times are tough financially for most people, what they might be able to give is a little of their time.”

Volunteer Link-Up West Oxfordshire operates from the Volunteer Centre West Oxfordshire at Methodist Church Buildings, 10 Wesley Walk, Witney (Monday-Friday 9am-1pm).

To find out more about volunteering pop in, telephone: 01993 776277, email office@vlu.org.uk or see vlu.org.uk

For information about the Surviving Winter campaign, and the different Good Neighbour schemes, visit oxfordshire.org or email ashley@ oxfordshire.org

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