By CHRIS HILL
Monday, October 22, 2012
A tireless volunteer working with dementia projects in Norfolk is set for Royal recognition after being invited to a celebratory reception at St James’s Palace.
Edna Summers, from Barkers Lane in Sprowston, will meet the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall after being selected to attend the event in London next month.
The 78-year-old Age UK stalwart was one of 60 people from the East and South East regions named as “Diamond Champions” earlier this month, in a scheme run by charity WRVS to recognise the outstanding voluntary contributions made by the over-60s.
But of the 10 champions selected to receive an invitation to the palace, Edna is the only one from Norfolk or Suffolk.
“I just couldn’t believe it, to be honest,” she said. “It was just amazing that out of all the people there and all the wonderful things they were doing... to be suddenly be picked out as one of the 10 was lovely.”
Edna was described as the “heart and soul” of Pabulum, a dementia project run by Age UK Norfolk, and of Come Singing, a singing group for people living with dementia.
She has been volunteering for more than nine years and gives up about 20 hours of her time each month for six different groups, working up to three times a week at local day centre meetings for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, and their carers.
Although Edna’s son Timothy lives outside Norwich at Bawdeswell, her daughter Julia lives in Essex and her other son David has lived in America since 1981. She said she became involved in volunteering after her husband John, himself a dementia patient, died in 2003.
She said: “Some of the people who do these clubs are tied by their families, but I am able to do them because I am here on my own.
“You get to know people very well, and they have become like my family, in a way. A lot of them have lost their partners so it is good company for them, too.
“They are lovely people and the main thing you need is patience. I have met lots of people through these clubs and there is nobody I didn’t like.”
Edna’s dedication to her cause means she even refuses to miss volunteering sessions while her arm is in plaster after breaking her wrist seven weeks ago.
“I did miss a few when I was in hospital, but I have been going ever since,” she said. “I am able to go along and talk to people and I help some of the old-timers. I managed to go and see a 90-year-old in hospital, and so I do still manage to do things. It is just annoying that you cannot do everything you would want to, but it is better than sitting around and moping about it.”
Esther Gillespie, WRVS area manager for the East and South East, said: “We’re delighted to be able to invite 10 Diamond Champions from the East and South East to such a prestigious event at St James’s Palace.
“They are all amazing examples of the kind of volunteer work being done by older people across the region.”
The 10 Diamond Champions, chosen by a regional judging panel, were presented with a specially-designed pin at a celebratory event at The Sloane Club in London on October 19.
At the forthcoming St James’s Palace reception, Edna is due to be joined by 79 other Diamond Champions from across the country, along with celebrity ambassadors including Felicity Kendal, Phillip Schofield and Patricia Routledge.