Sheffield widow urges more to join charity pen pal to fight loneliness

A Sheffield widow has hailed the work of a leading older persons’ charity during one of the toughest years of her life – and now wants others in the city to seek its support.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 1:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 5:52 pm

Ann Balm, aged 73, from Hillsborough lives alone and has had help from Sheffield Churches for Community Care (SCCCC) for a decade after her husband passed away in 2011.

That support really came into its own this year though as regular phone calls and a deluge of pen pal letters helped to keep the self-confessed conversation addict going during the loneliest of times.

Ann said: “I got in touch with SCCCC when my husband, Albert, passed away in 2011. He was a lot older than me and his and my family lived away. I needed some help and the charity was there when I really needed it. They helped me through it.

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“I live alone, but have help from carers and a cleaning service. My family lives in Leicester. I came to Sheffield to work in a nursing home when I was 21 years old, before meeting Albert a few years later. We lived together for nine years then married in 1979.

“My two SCCCC volunteers are Tammy and Nicola. Tammy used to regularly come to my home for face-to-face visits, but due to the virus they now both telephone me instead. We have a great relationship. We talk about everything under the sun- I sometimes even make them howl with laughter! I’ve not been out properly for a year now- just to the shops. I used to go everywhere. When you stay in on your own you get lonely. I can talk the leg off a chair, so the loneliness really gets to me.

“As well as the phone calls, I’ve had so many postcards from the charity’s pen pal scheme. They are lovely. I’ve stuck them all to a wall. Soon I will have to borrow a wall from a museum to fit them all in!

“SCCCC’s Good Neighbours Scheme makes such a difference to my life. I so look forward to their calls, if I’m down they cheer me up and if I’m stuck they help me out. I suffer with diabetes and if I don’t feel very well they help me access medical care. Once they brought me a loaf of bread when I ran out and couldn’t get to the shops.

"They even helped me with a hoax call, where the caller said they were taking money from my bank. SCCCC looked into this for me and asked the bank manager to confirm that it was a hoax. As I can't read and write I don't have anywhere else to get the help, and can’t go to the bank. Thankfully SCCCC sorted it for me.

“I think the scheme is brilliant, the staff and volunteers would do anything for anybody. They are wonderful people. This year has been like no other, and I would say to any older person suffering from loneliness to call them up and sign up. It’s free and there’s nothing like talking on the telephone and being cheered up, especially if you’ve just lost someone.”

SCCCC is currently recruiting new volunteers to be paired up with older people for telephone support, with anyone in South Yorkshire eligible to help out.

The charity hopes that telephone calls may become friendly visits in the future, once the current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. A full induction and DBS checks will be carried out to ensure all volunteers are suitable to support our older service users.

To find out more or to volunteer, email [email protected] or phone 0114 2505292. Alternatively, if you are a person over 65 who would like to access support, visit www.scccc.co.uk/get-help