31st October 2022

We never dreamed it would be so big!

Fundraisers are the heart of our organisation, so we caught up with two extraordinary ladies who have volunteered their time and energy for Alzheimer’s Support over the past three decades, helping to raise tens of thousands of pounds.   

It was the early 1990s when Sheila Jennings and Carole Archer first joined us as volunteers.  Sheila began in 1991 having previously volunteered in the 1980s in a dementia hospital in the United States. Carole had recently lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, so in 1993, when she saw an advert calling for volunteers, she knew she needed to respond.

In 1994, the ladies formed the Friends of Alzheimer’s Support and their fundraising adventure in West Wiltshire began. Over the years, many amazing and dedicated volunteers joined them in giving their time and energy, but Sheila and Carole have remained and have no immediate plans to give up. 

'We'd bake our socks off!'

Sheila said: “It all started when we wanted to raise a bit of money for a few extras. We never dreamed it would be so big! The clients being comfortable and being able to have fun and do things like a bit of gardening was at the forefront of it.”

They have run cake, chutney and jam and bric-a-brac stalls at May Day markets, Christmas markets, open gardens, fun runs and carnivals and have organised carol concerts, coffee mornings and fashion shows.

Carol said: “Many a time we’ve been in the park, struggling to put up a gazebo, with everything blowing everywhere! We’d wear fingerless woolly gloves when it was really cold.”

She added: “We’d bake our socks off. I can remember a May Day carnival when I had to quickly nip home and bake some more scones because we’d run out.”

Sheila was a keen runner, so in 1996 she approached her club, the Avon Valley Runners and asked them to organise a charity run. In return she agreed that the ladies would lay on refreshments. Twenty-five years later, the annual AVR Over the Hills run continues to be a popular event and each year raises several thousand pounds for Alzheimer’s Support.

Carol said: “It’s a big event and we make about ten large cakes each for it. It’s always quiet on the stall once the runners have set off but it gets so busy when they all start coming back in and it’s a wonderful atmosphere. We always need helpers to make drinks, cut cakes and take the money. It’s great fun.”


'We’re the old guard now'

The ladies thoroughly enjoy that they do but they are very aware that more volunteers are needed. “We’re the old guard now,” said Carole. “We need some more volunteers to bake and sell cakes or events like the run might not have refreshments.”

Sheila, who is approaching her 91st birthday, added: “Yes, there must be people out there who like to bake and would enjoy getting involved and helping to set up and run stalls.”

It was wonderful to see the keenness and dedication between these remarkable friends. As they said farewell after meeting for coffee they were still discussing the upcoming AVR fun run, “If you do another couple of lemon drizzles, Sheila, I’ll keep going with sponges. I’ve got seven in the freezer so far.”

“Yes okay, I’ll do some chocolate fudge cakes too…”

More about volunteering with Alzheimer's Support