Volunteering is a family affair for Elaine

Elaine is from Hale in Greater Manchester and decided to start a Re-engage tea party last summer, after entertaining a friend and her 98-year-old mother.

“It was just an arrangement where I invited them both for a sandwich and cake but it meant so much to them,” said Elaine, a former counsellor. “So when I heard about Re-engage I thought I’d like to do it more long term and for more people.

“My parents were divorced and both lonely when they got older and although I visited them and took them out I never quite understood their loneliness. But I do now. And that’s why I believe it’s so important to do what we can to help people in that situation."

Since December, Elaine, who is a Manchester magistrate, has coordinated all of the tea parties in her area. Since then she has built up an impressive team of volunteers to host the tea parties and drive older people to and from the venue.

“We can host up to 20 people at a time,” continued Elaine. “On each occasion there will be three hosts providing the cakes and tea, and of course the drivers will be there.

“At times, it’s been a real family affair. My son James, who is 35 and studying to be a doctor in psychology, recently came along to help. He was a total hit chatting to all of the tea party guests!

“I’ve been lucky because my husband Les has volunteered, as have several others including a retired surgeon, two solicitors and a former priest. I want this to be a collaborative group so it can be a community for the drivers and hosts, as well as the guests. And I’ve said to them that even if they are not on the duty rota, they’re welcome to come along for a cup of tea and a chat.

“Setting up the group has been interesting. I'm passionate about animals and help with related charities, so this is something completely different for me.

“I looked forward to the first tea party with a little trepidation, but also knew just how important it is to help older people who are feeling lonely.”

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