How Suffolk charity is helping during coronavirus outbreak

PUBLISHED: 13:49 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:31 03 April 2020

Jo Reeder, head of of Age UK Suffolk. The charity is adapting to help people during the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Supplied by Jo Reeder

Jo Reeder, head of of Age UK Suffolk. The charity is adapting to help people during the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Supplied by Jo Reeder


Jo Reeder, head of fundraising and marketing at Age UK Suffolk is a true Suffolk girl, having had a career predominately in local media, before entering the charity sector. As we experience another week of COVID-19 lockdown, Age UK Suffolk has had to quickly adapt its core services. This very special charity is represented throughout our region and is committed to improving the lives of older people – something that is nevermore important. Jo and the Age UK Suffolk charity are continuing to give vital help, including emergency shopping during this desperate time of need. She has seen a 40% increase in the charity’s befriending scheme and the same increase in their information and advice service. Here she talks to Gina Long MBE

How is COVID-19 impacting your charity and how are you adapting?

I’m not going to lie, the impact has been huge, as it has been for everyone. As a local charity, the biggest challenge is still to come. As with all charities, COVID-19 has hit us hard financially. We are, however, totally committed to the welfare and needs of older people across Suffolk, as are other Age UK’s across the region. The vital support we offer is increasing daily, therefore our financial needs grow too.

What help and advice can Age UK Suffolk offer our readers during the COVID-19 outbreak?

One of the biggest concerns is that there is a lot of fake news out there. I strongly encourage people to always use the recognised news sources for updated information and to follow government guidelines at all times. Age UK Suffolk is here to support any 
older person through regular befriending or ‘good day’ calls, where we offer information and advice, along with our home help service. During the COVID-19 times, we have introduced an emergency shopping service. 
We also connect into a great network of community support, ensuring that every older 
person can have regular contact over the phone. Meaning, they don’t need to worry about groceries or prescription collections.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I was born in Felixstowe – my parents are both from the town as well. I live in Ipswich – so not a million miles away! As a non-uni person, I have always worked in Suffolk and spent a lot of time across both Suffolk and Norfolk. My children are the same – born, schooled and now working or studying here, so we are very much a local family. My maternal grandfather was a business owner in East Anglia, our roots here are very strong.

What is your East Anglian Heaven, ie what do you love most about East Anglia?

I love the fact that we have a “bit of everything” – we can shop, go to the seaside or go for a lovely country walk – without travelling too far. I can’t see the need to live anywhere else.

What is your East Anglian Hell, ie what you hate most about living here?

The Ipswich one-way system and general traffic in the larger towns. My job requires quite a bit of local travel, this can be extremely frustrating at times.

What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

I love Asian and fusion food, so I have two favourites – Aqua Eight in Ipswich, also Giggling Squid in Bury St Edmunds is my new favourite. I sincerely hope that the café, restaurant and hotel industry will recover from these unsettling COVID-19 times, we all find ourselves in now.

What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

With friends. I’ve always loved having friends around. I can think of nothing better than having a group of friends and their partners over to our house, for an evening of good food, 
wine and silly games. Our house has always been the “go to” house for gatherings. Again, we are really missing these special social times at the moment. Our current go-to for social interaction with friends and family is the House Party app.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

Probably Felixstowe Ferry. 
Many of my very prominent childhood memories are of time spent at the ferry – popping down every Saturday to get fresh shrimps for my Dad’s lunch. I also love the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe, as I spent a lot of my younger years there when my parents, and latterly my sister and I performed with a local amateur dramatic society.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

I’m a real theatre fan, so probably the theatre festivals that take place – the Wolsey Theatre offers a fantastic Pulse Season which showcases great pieces of theatre work.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?

Hmmm…probably musical theatre or musicals – I am a real luvvie!

What is always in your fridge?

Cheese and barbecue sauce – not to be eaten together necessarily.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Be kind – there are still lots of simple acts of kindness, which the current crisis is showing – it seems to bring out the best in (most) people.

What’s your favourite film?

Gosh, that’s really hard – I’m not great at watching films as I always fall asleep. I love Pretty Woman, or for proper old school musicals it would have to be Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

What was your first job?

Ha ha – a paper round, like so many teenagers in the early 1980’s – my first ‘proper job’ was in my grandfather’s sweetie shop – every kid’s dream!

What is your most treasured possession?

Other than my children…probably my gorgeous Pug, Mabel – she came to us when we really needed her, she makes me laugh every day.

Who do you admire most?

You may also want to watch:

The Queen, although I’m not a particular royalist. I often think that for someone who’s life has followed a completely unpredicted path, she has dealt with and lived through an awful lot of challenges and sacrifices.

What is your biggest indulgence?

I love to eat out, or to go to the theatre – would love to go to the West End more as you can’t beat live theatre.

What do you like about yourself most?

I think my friends would probably say that I am a good friend, always there if needed. I hope so, anyway, friends are your chosen family.

What’s your worst character trait?

I am hopeless at saying “no”.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much, but when our lockdown is over, this will change. I do love visiting my extended family in Sardinia – it’s such a beautiful and peaceful country, however, New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Hawaii are all on the list for next year.

Best day of your life?

When my girls were born.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

I’m not great with breakfast and usually eat it at my desk when I get to the office. I do love a well-cooked bacon sarnie on lovely fresh bread – and lots of cups of tea.

What’s your favourite tipple?

A glass of Pinot Noir, or Pinot Grigio in the summer – must be well chilled though. Plus, the odd glass of Prosecco. I’m not a huge drinker.

What’s your hidden talent?

Not sure I have one. I’d like to say singing but my kids would adamantly disagree.

When were you most embarrassed?

That’s easy – 25 years ago, a friend and I were waiting for a taxi outside the Spa Pavilion, by the pond. A car came along, the 
driver wasn’t someone we were particularly fond of (that’s 
another story). So to hide, I said “quick, jump over the wall” – needless to say it wasn’t a wall – it was a pond. Getting into the taxi, dripping wet with stagnant pond water, a little worse for wear, wasn’t my finest hour.

What’s your earliest memory?

A very vague memory of my 
sister being born. I would have been about three and a half. I can remember sitting on my nanna’s knee in our lounge, with my Dad coming down the stairs with a mask on, telling me I had a baby sister.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Alfie Boe and Kerry Ellis singing “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge is one of my favourites.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I have no secrets, I am an open book. I don’t know that there is anything to share, except I’m partial to dressing up for odd causes.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

Probably that I am tone deaf, or perhaps most recently when asked if I was my 8-year-old niece’s Grandma!

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else.

Why would I want to live anywhere else? It’s such a beautiful region, with all my friends and family nearby.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

An unashamed plea for support – the situation the world is in currently could never have 
been predicted. It is having an enormous strain on the majority of local charities, whose usual fundraising and income streams have disappeared overnight. Because of this, Age UK Suffolk has launched an emergency fundraising appeal, Good Day Calls, to help us to ensure we can continue to support older people with our vital services that although usually stretched, are seeing an enormous increase in need. 
We need to generate £33,000 each month during this crisis to make sure we can do this, so literally, any penny you can spare really will make a difference. We used to ask people if they had ever been lonely – well, now for many of us, we know what this feels like, but for many older people, the level of social isolation we are currently experiencing, is a daily reality. Between us all, we can turn the negatives into positives and all make a difference to so many local lives. If you would like to donate, of any size, visit or do call me on 01473 353071. For support in Norfolk call Age UK Norfolk on 01603 787111 or Age UK Norwich on 01603 496333 or see

Are you or your business doing something special during COVID-19 times? If you are living in Suffolk or Norfolk and are adapting your business to give support during COVID-19, please do email me at T: @geewizzgee1

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