Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham Launches Operation Christmas Magic

Elderly residents boosted by support of volunteer befrienders

Ben Fogle at last year's very different Christmas lunch
Ben Fogle at last year's very different Christmas lunch

“It’s been lovely going out with my befriender, it really uplifted me,” said local pensioner Margaret.

She has regular calls from befrienders who are volunteering with Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham.

And because Margaret – her pseudonym – has health concerns, the volunteers have phoned regularly to get her shopping list and deliver her groceries.

Before the last lockdown they got a taxi before taking a riverside stroll and enjoyed stopping off at the Black Lion in Hammersmith. Margaret said it was fantastic to get out and about and enjoy a pub lunch outside and a trip out.

“I have never been on a bus since the pandemic. I am just being as careful as I can,” she said.

“It was so nice to have such a lovely day. It uplifted me. I thought it was wonderful.”

This Christmas Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham managed to host a very socially distanced meal for 25 guests. It was a little different from last year when TV presenter Ben Fogle joined the festivities.

But as London has gone into Tier 3 ,further sit down meals are cancelled. However they are appealing for donations to help fund parcels filled with Christmas cheer including mince pies, satsumas, cheese and a beef ready meal to help bring a smile to people’s faces. So far they have raised a third of their £650 Operation Christmas Magic target.

Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham held Christmas lunch before Tier 3 imposed
Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham held Christmas lunch before Tier 3 imposed

But whilst the Christmas get together at the centre at Greyhound Road is on hold, the befriending will carry on safely.

Volunteer Paul Barton from North Fulham also helps out. He has assisted residents on hospital visits at a time when Covid has changed how hospitals work.

“We make sure they can get there and order taxis. Sometimes people can feel a bit overwhelmed and disorientated and it’s important that we can help,” he said.

Volunteers help people navigate the Covid rules at hospital and make sure they get home safely after procedures when people can feel a bit wobbly, he said.

Sophie Newman from Shepherd’s Bush decided to volunteer last year as her job as a nurse at Charing Cross Hospital gave her an insight into people’s lives.

She said: “I had intended to volunteer before the pandemic started. I’ve seen how lonely people can be through my work (especially older people), and wanted to see what I could do to help. I also wanted to meet local people in a different age bracket to my own!”

She has been visiting Margaret regularly since April and plans to stay in touch as she heads off overseas.

Ms Newman said: “It’s been a lovely experience, which I would thoroughly recommend. Although I have spent a fair amount of time in Tesco, we would always have a chat, a cup of tea and a cake afterwards – it’s been wonderful getting to know Margaret, and passing the time together. “

And she said their sunny riverside stroll and pre-Christmas chat “ really reminded me of the worth of volunteering”.

To donate to Operation Christmas Magic visit this link.

Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporters

December 18, 2020