The community hero providing valuable support to lonely elderly people
- Credit: Archant
When Woolworths closed down nearly ten years ago, employee Brenda Stagels decided that instead of looking for other employment she would spend her time volunteering at a local community centre for elderly people. Ten years on and Mrs Stagels is still providing vital and valuable support for many who need it.
From Monday to Friday, elderly people who may be lonely or suffering with dementia visit a mid-Norfolk community centre in their numbers and for the last ten years, one local volunteer has been on hand to offer vital support and provide much needed company.
Mrs Stagels, 74, who lives in Toftwood, near Dereham, volunteers three days a week at Dereham Meeting Point, which provides its members with a place to meet others and feel welcome.
After losing her job at Woolworths when she was 65, she quickly decided she would give up her time to volunteer at the Meeting Point and makes teas, coffees, serves lunch, washes up and even joins in with the card games the members play.
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She believes that it's crucial that elderly people are given somewhere to go and take part in activities and interact with each other.
'There's lots of lonely and vulnerable people out there on their own' she said.
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'It's a lifeline for a lot of these people, they're lonely people. I listen to whatever they want to say
'The Meeting Point wouldn't be able to survive without volunteers. I feel like I'm making a difference.'
Dereham Meeting Point provides lunch five days a week to its members as well as a broad range of activities including bingo, quizzes, art classes and card games.
Members also go on outings and it hosts many events which have this year included a 1940s evacuee themed afternoon tea and dance as well as a Christmas party, which was attended by the Mayor of Dereham Hilary Bushell.
Volunteers like Mrs Stagels are key in keeping the centre going so it can continue to provide its service and she said she still enjoys it just as much as when she first started ten years ago.
She added: 'I don't come home early, I'm never in a hurry to get home. I couldn't sit at home for seven days a week.
'I don't know what I'd do if I didn't go there. When they come by and say thanks for what I've done today it really makes me think that they do appreciate it.'
Mrs Stagels has always had an interest in helping people and giving up her time for voluntary work and was involved in the Kids First charity during her time at Woolworths.
Now spending her days helping the older generation as oppose to the young, her passion for helping people has not lessened with age but she said that it is imperative that organisations like Dereham Meeting Point receive continued support.
She said: 'I just love helping people. Someone had to do the voluntary work at Kids First and I just got into it. I do really enjoy it.
'I feel like I come to do something when I do the work. I don't feel like I'm old but I am.
'We had our Christmas lunch last Wednesday and the Co-op provided all the wine for the table, brought bottles of beer in and gave some raffle prizes to us.
'It's nice to have people on your side. I like the fundraising bit as well. I do wish it was better supported as there's lots of elderly people out there on their own.'
Nearly 75, Mrs Stagels wants to carry on her work for however long is possible to continue to provide lonely and vulnerable elderly people with company and activities to take part in.
'The manager asked me if when I stop volunteering I'll come as a member but I said if I stop volunteering it's because I can't come' she said.
'I'll carry on as long as my body lets me I think, I plan to go on as long as I can.'