Janet Caffrey

Janet volunteers at the Mill Street Day Club in Trowbridge

“You don’t need to be a special kind of person to volunteer, you just need to be you and that’s enough.

“I lost my husband, my soul mate, a year ago and felt I had lost my purpose. He was a huge part of my life and left a huge void and a feeling of emptiness. Since volunteering with Alzheimer’s Support I feel needed again.

“A friend had suggested looking at the volunteering opportunities on the Wiltshire Together website. I responded to a few, but I was a little uncertain if I would have the skills required. Once I was contacted by Annie from Alzheimer’s Support and spoke to her and Grant Newton, head of day care, they put my mind at rest. All I needed was to be me!

“That became even clearer the moment I arrived at the club, it was so relaxed. I just had fun while enjoying the company of the members.

 “There are some more basic tasks like helping to serve meals and lots of hot beverages and cake, of course, but nothing I wouldn’t do at home for my family and friends.

 “We play games of all sorts – I’m getting quite good at scrabble and we do puzzles and various quizzes. There is the daily fun movement to silly songs, we play darts, skittles, curling, all sorts. We talk lots too, there is such a variety of people who come to the club and they have led such interesting lives. Making a positive difference in someone’s day is extremely satisfying.

 “My sister and mum both lived with dementia in the later part of their lives. I’ve been a carer and know how important it was to get a break for both for myself and for Mum. Alzheimer’s Support provides a vital service. My family and I received wonderful support when we needed it, it’s great to be able to pass that on."

Ken Windess

The former master carpenter of Longleat House volunteers his woodworking skills at Alzheimer’s Support’s day clubs and carves gifts to sell through its online shop.

"Carpentry was a family tradition, both my father and grandfather had been carpenters and my name was down as an apprentice from the day I was born. Luckily, I really enjoyed it! I started at Longleat in 1982, first as head carpenter, working on any piece of antique furniture that needed restoring, then later became house steward.

“My wife, June, started at Longleat two weeks after me and in time became the housekeeper. We met when she was 14 and I was 16 and married three years later in 1960.

“June’s dementia was a gradual thing, she would keep losing things at work or ask “Who was that?” of someone she knew. The girls she worked with kept eye on her and chivvied her along until it got too much and we both retired in 2006.

“June then started going to Alzheimer’s Support’s day club in Mill Street, which is where I met Grant, the head of day care services. He told me about the new Old Silk Works club in Warminster and I decided to help with the renovation. I put together cupboards, made picture frames and hung lots of pictures – anything that needed doing. June became one of the founder members of the new club and it worked out really well for both of us. I would take her there and then hang around if they wanted something done.

“Gradually things became more difficult at home and after a fall June went into residential care, but I carried on volunteering. Alzheimer’s Support had done so much for me and I felt I needed to give something back. It was also a way for me to stay friends with Grant.

“I’d already been doing wood turning at the village fete in Horningsham for Alzheimer’s Support so making carved gifts to sell on the charity’s website was almost a natural progression. I use fallen wood from Longleat Forest – oak, yew and laburnum. Yew is my favourite – it’s beautiful and every bit is different because of the grain.

“One thing always leads to another and I’ve made a cupboard to house to house PPE at the day club in Devizes too. If they need anything done at the clubs they just get on the blower to me and I’m there.”

See Ken's beautiful hand-carved gifts here

Marlyn Jones

Marlyn volunteers at Art group Holt, the Wildlife group, Movement for the Mind in Bowerhill and Devizes, Music for the Mind in Seend - and she also helps out with fundraising.

Marlyn Jones"Hi everyone, let me introduce myself, my name is Marlyn Jones and I was married to Alan for 52 years.

We got the diagnosis of Alzheimer's on 15th February 2016, (my 71st birthday). I knew several years before that something was wrong, to be honest for me it was a relief to get the actual diagnosis.

Anyway Alan died in March this year after a fall at home in January. He enjoyed many of the activities arranged by Alzheimer's support, the art at Holt, the movement for the mind, the singing - and his biggest love was the wildlife sessions at Lower Moor Farm.

Since his passing I have tried helping out at these sessions and am trying to help raise money for the organisation. I have a go at making jewellery and selling at craft fairs, but my biggest enjoyment is being with all the wonderful people I meet at all the sessions I attend.

I find it very rewarding. These people don't know just how much they help me in dealing with my loss. I will always be grateful to them for the help and support they gave my Alan."

  

Julian Lawson

Julian volunteers at Lyneham Art group and earlier this year stepped up to lead a session when the art facilitator was on holiday. He created stencils for the group to use and helped everyone to produce some beautiful images.

Julian Lawson"I was born and grew up in Gloucestershire and moved to Wiltshire in my 20’s.  I moved to a plot of land with the intention of setting up a smallholding or caravan park but got evicted because there was no planning permission.  I had nowhere to go and no money,  so was homeless from the early 1990’s until 2004.  I lived in a tent, on towpaths and in fields, it was a really stressful time as I had quite a struggle with the local council and have also had anxiety issues since childhood.   I did move back to the old plot (caravan/small holding) for a while and managed to get a cleaning job.  

Art kept me going, I’d plan excursions to places I’d like to draw – it was good for me socially, people would stop and talk.   Art helped to keep me calm and to relax.  It was good to focus on something positive. 

By now I was in touch with Doorway, a homelessness charity in Chippenham.  Once I got settled I took an A Level art course at evening classes.  Due to my anxiety issues I was also in touch with Building Bridges project and they sent me to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.  It was through them that I found out about Alzheimer’s Support art groups.  They supported me to connect with and get a space with the group and I been here ever since 

I enjoy the company – I do feel it’s a privilege to come here – such a friendly relaxed group.  I enjoy working the group and see all the different approaches. I find it really stimulating. 

One of my favourite moments was when we were doing portraits so we were looking at faces on stamps. One of the wives was trying to remember the name of someone on the stamps.  Her husband turned to her and said ‘Of course he’s a famous artichoke, you know!’  

One bit of advice for other volunteers is don’t be scared to share your ideas."

 

Wendy Clayton

Memory Awareness Volunteer and Alzheimer's Support ambassador.

Hello, I'm Wendy, a 71 year old retiree.  I have a husband, three children, seven grandchildren and I play and coach bowls, which means I don't often have enough hours in the week. Certainly I never thought of volunteering. However, one Sunday after lunch I asked my daughter-in-law, Annie, about an article she'd written for the local paper.  Alzheimer's Support were looking for volunteers to help with a new project, funded by Comic Relief. The first meeting was the next day and Annie suggested I 'come along'.  The rest is history.

My role has the title of Memory Awareness Volunteer and involves regularly attending a local GPs surgery and library, giving advice on the differences between normal ageing and dementia and signposting those needing help in the right direction. Talking to local groups is also an important part of the work - spreading the message that early diagnosis is vital. I've visited 16 groups during the last three years, this has not only been enjoyable but also very satisfying. 

I also bake and help out at fundraising events, including the Memory Tree event and Fun Days, where I man the Alzheimer's Support stand and chat to people about the work of the charity. 

My highlights have been some very positive write-ups in the local press, a trip to Westminster as a guest of local MP Claire Perry, and an enlightening visit to the Trowbridge Mosque. The latter showed how other groups cope, usually with no outside help, but as one lovely lady there reminded us in no uncertain terms: 'This disease is a b..... nightmare'.    

Volunteering with Alzheimer’s support has reminded me to listen and to always count my blessings."

 If you are a volunteer and would like your story to appear here, please let Annie know!