Volunteer encourages others to sign up for befriending services to support lonely older people in Sheffield

A charity befriender is encouraging others to come forward and offer their spare time to help make a difference to the lives of lonely and isolated older people in Sheffield.

By Alana Roberts
Monday, 1st March 2021, 7:00 am

Georgia Bolton, from Nether Edge, currently makes weekly phone calls to an elderly woman with whom she was partnered with through a befriending scheme run by Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC).

The Star’s ‘Buddy Up!’ campaign is calling on more people to get involved with services like those run by SCCCC to help combat loneliness among older people in Sheffield and the South Yorkshire region.

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Georgia Bolton who volunteers with the befriending scheme run by Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC)

The 25-year-old said she was inspired to sign up after hearing of SCCCC at a networking event and was initially quite nervous as she had never done any volunteering.

However, after speaking with the charity’s volunteer coordinator Sharon Saunders and going through the induction, her nerves soon eased.

“I’m quite a caring person and I wanted to do something that gave back,” Georgia, an administrator in the financial services sector, explained.

"It caught my attention because I like talking to people, so I thought it would suit me quite well but also I haven’t got any grandparents so for me it’s quite a nice thing to do as well.”

The Star has launched a Buddy Up! campaign to encourage more people to sign up as befrienders

Georgia initially started by visiting Irene, her befriending partner, but after SCCCC was forced to suspend face-to-face visits due to Covid-19 they switched to speaking on the phone.

The pair have now forged a solid friendship and both look forward to their chats on a Saturday.

Georgia said: “My partner has said to me ‘will you do this forever?’ and I said of course, I couldn’t ever just not talk to her. She is my friend now and we know what is going on in each other’s lives. It’s nice for her as well as me.

"It’s usually a bit of a catch up – how’s her family, how’s my family, how’s my work. But we also talk about her memories with her husband before he passed and holidays they used to go on, my animals, anything and everything really.”

She added: “Some days when I speak to Irene she might start off being a bit down and I’ll be like ‘come on cheer up’. When I’ve finished talking to her it just makes me feel better that A, I’ve spoken to her and I know she’s OK and B, it’s nice for me to chat to someone mindlessly while I’ll cleaning up my apartment or whatever.”

Georgia is now encouraging others to offer their spare time to vital services such as those run by SCCCC.

"My message to people would be just do it,” she said. “Trust in the charity because they look after you so well and if you’ve got any concerns or problems they’re so supportive.

“It’s so worth it, it’s literally half an hour of your week – sometimes its not even that if neither of us have got much to talk about we just have a 10 minute catch up or other times we’re on the phone for 45 minutes.

"I have a busy life but you just make it work. It’s a small selfless act that makes such a difference to someone else’s life.”

For information on how to volunteer with SCCCC email [email protected] or phone 0114 2505292.

The Star has launched a new Buddy Up! Campaign calling on more people to sign up as volunteers to help provide befriending services to isolated people. For more information on that, see our article here.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.