CHRISTMAS cheer was overflowing as dozens of Portsmouth’s older residents tucked into a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Months of effort by staff and volunteers at Age UK Portsmouth to make Christmas special for the most vulnerable and isolated elderly people in our communities paid off.
And the presents donated by our fantastic readers was the icing on the Christmas cake.
As part of our Christmas campaign, Don’t Let Them Be Lonely, we asked you to wrap up an extra gift for the 30 people attending the free festive meal at the Bradbury Centre, Portsmouth, yesterday.
In fact, more than 120 presents were dropped off at The News offices.
There were so many that Age UK Portsmouth staff dressed as elves and delivered them to other older people who may not be given any presents this year.
People have been so generous, it’s just fantasticBrenda Eldridge
Service manager Kelly Long said: ‘We had so many presents and they made so many people so happy.
‘The first lady we visited started crying. She actually said we’d made such a difference to her life.
‘I don’t think readers of The News really understand what these gifts will mean to people this Christmas.’
Joyce Tynan celebrated her birthday for the first time yesterday.
Having spent her entire working life in service as a kitchen maid, she has always been too busy in the lead-up to Christmas to think of herself.
Now 83, she has devoted her retirement to being a full-time carer to her 96-year-old husband Patrick. After everyone sang Happy Birthday to her, Joyce said: ‘It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had.
‘I’ve always wanted to be invited out for my birthday and I can’t tell you how nice this party has been.
‘I’ve been married for 62 years. It’s very hard work looking after my husband but it’s been such a lovely day here. Everyone is so happy.’
Last Christmas was very different for 70-year-old Malcolm Tickner.
He said: ‘It was a very nice surprise to get the invitation to come here because I was in hospital last Christmas.
‘I don’t see my family so it’s been a special occasion.’
After the party-goers tucked into their Christmas pudding they were handed the presents.
Brenda Eldridge, 86, from Milton was delighted and is saving hers for Christmas Day.
‘People have been so generous,’ said Brenda. ‘It’s just fantastic.’
Dianne Sherlock, chief executive officer of Age UK Portsmouth, shared Brenda’s sentiments.
She said: ‘Thank you so much to The News and all your readers.
‘We’ve had more than 120 presents and lots of laughter.’
As well as the Christmas party presents, readers were asked to consider volunteering their time to help elderly people throughout the year through two local charities.
Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said: ‘I am delighted that our Don’t Let Them Be Lonely campaign has brought so much joy to so many people.
‘And 50 people have offered to volunteer to make life easier for vulnerable elderly people for the months and years ahead.’
Charities ‘overwhelmed’ by people wanting to help
AS WELL as donating presents to isolated older people The News asked readers to consider offering their time.
The response was overwhelming. Both the Salvation Army’s befriending service in Portsmouth, called Good Neighbours, and a separate scheme called the Good Neighbours Support Service – which covers areas outside the city – have been inundated with calls from potential volunteers.
Rosalyn Fraser, from the Salvation Army, said: ‘We have received about 30 telephone calls from people who have read The News and would love to help. Fantastic.
‘I would like to say a huge thank you to the readers of The News. We have been overwhelmed with the number of people who have contacted us wanting to help. Please could I urge everyone to think about spending time with a lonely older person as part of their new year’s resolution.
‘The difference you can make is truly amazing.’
And Angela Smith from Good Neighbours, said: ‘We have been so pleased The News has highlighted the wonderful work the Good Neighbours groups do and encouraged new people to get involved.
‘Volunteering with Good Neighbours is so rewarding. You can see the difference you are making in somebody else’s life by giving a few hours as and when you can.
‘We call it people helping people. If people are thinking about doing a little volunteering do please get in touch and find out more.’
Call the Salvation Army on (023) 9229 3793 and Good Neighbours on (023) 9289 9671 to find out more.