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Wednesday, 2 December 2020

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Volunteer’s birthday gesture breaks isolation sadness for Sheffield man, 93

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A friendly visiting volunteer from Sheffield surprised a lonely 93-year-old man on his birthday, delivering cake, a card and a jigsaw puzzle to cheer him up after lockdown isolation made him feel down.

Fran O’Callaghan, aged 48, from Wharncliffe Side, hand-delivered the birthday food parcel from a distance having met birthday boy Jack as part of Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care’s (SCCCC) Good Neighbour Scheme.

Fran signed up to the charity’s flagship scheme earlier this year and was paired with Jack for weekly friendly visits.

But with visits being postponed due to lockdown, she has been so desperate to do something to help Jack, who’s not been out of the house since his wife passed away two years ago.

Fran said:

“Towards the end of last year, there was a feature on the news about loneliness in older people. I saw on social media about SCCCC needing volunteers for friendly visiting and got in touch with them to see if I could help.

“I started visiting Jack once a week, at first for an hour, but we got on so well that sometimes three hours would pass. I love visiting him; we talk about everything from cooking, hobbies, gardening, fishing and animals. He’s usually so jolly and upbeat.

“When lockdown began I started phoning him rather than visiting and he sounded so down – really not himself. I knew it was his birthday coming up so I wanted to cheer him up. I had bought him a jigsaw puzzle and didn’t want to put it in the post in case it didn’t get there.

“I checked with the team at SCCCC and they said as long as I kept a safe distance and wore PPE I could leave it on his doorstep. I phoned Jack and he was up for it – he knew I wouldn’t be able to go into the house.

“So off I went, I took him a food parcel with some little buns in, and sung happy birthday from the bottom of the garden. It really cheered him up. I go over once a week now with a food parcel with homemade pie and pudding for him, all at a safe distance. We chat for ten minutes or so, him on his doorstep, me at the end of his garden.

“He is really missing my visits, he really looks forward to them. He doesn’t have carers so doesn’t see many people, and it is really lonely for him without Jean, he misses her greatly.

“I’ve promised him that when the lockdown is over I’ll take him to Elsecar Heritage Centre to see the steam trains and we’ll have lunch. I can’t wait to see him again. He’s an inspiration.”

Jack and Fran

SCCCC’s Good Neighbour Scheme aims to help the older members of the community by enhancing their quality of life. The service is provided free of charge with the basic aim of helping to combat loneliness for people over 65 living in Sheffield.

Due to the pandemic, the scheme is postponed for face-to-face visits, with older people still receiving support from volunteers through telephone calls and handwritten letters.

However, SCCCC is still extremely busy supporting older people on discharge from hospital, providing practical and emotional assistance at times of need and supporting the NHS where it can, safely.

For more information about SCCCC, or to donate, visit www.scccc.co.uk/donate

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