From humble beginnings in 2004, in Jo Evans’ front room, with a small group of folk meeting weekly for tea and buns, the Rotherfield St. Martin (RSM) charity has grown steadily and now has over 220 members.
Recognising many years ago that loneliness and isolation was going to be a big part of life for older people in the future, Jo firmly believed that with the right support from the community, they could remain in their own homes, living independent and enjoyable lives. Her pioneering forethought has been recognised nationally with a British Empire Medal (BEM).
Within the community, RSM have now become the ‘extra member of the family, on the doorstep’. Their office is situated in the middle of the village and people drop in to show off a new hairstyle or just have a chat. RSM send cards, make friendship calls, have companionship meetings, help with paperwork and collect prescriptions amongst many other tasks. Vicky Cheeseman from RSM said: “We’re always looking for extra ways in which we can wrap our arms around our community.”
Pre-Covid they had clubs every single day, but despite being forced to adapt and postpone some services, they still offer friendship phone calls, companionship, Rotherfield Rides, Rotherfield Repairs, prescription collection and foot care therapy.
However, as Vicky explained: “The impact of Covid-19 made us realise we needed to embrace and support the whole community, not just those over 65.”
So, RSM partnered with local supermarkets to provide 1000+ essential food parcels to anyone in need. They also invented ‘Treat Tuesdays’, targeting people who live alone, whereby younger volunteers turn up for a socially distanced chat, leaving a cake or fruit for the resident to enjoy with a cup of tea.
Wonderful Volunteer Support
Pre-Covid, RSM had 100 volunteers, but many had to shield, so they put the call out for new volunteers – and now have 150. Amazingly, there is at least one volunteer on every street and lane in the district; some 1,350 households and 4000 residents!
Volunteers range from 12 years old to 93 years old! They love to link the generations and find it works really well.