Widower forms special pandemic bond with Sheffield charity telephone befriender

A widower from Sheffield who spends almost every day alone has formed a special bond with a charity befriender who volunteered for a scheme which aims to curb loneliness in the city.

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 7:00 am

Jack Daniels, 94, speaks to Fran O’Callaghan, a Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC) volunteer, on the phone every week after the charity was forced

to suspend face-to-face visits when Covid-19 first took hold last March.

Fran, 48, from Wharncliffe Side, became a volunteer last year after hearing about the plight of isolated older people in the news.

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Pensioner Jack Daniels pictured with telephone befriender Fran O’Callaghan

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Now the pair say their relationship has gone from strength-to-strength, with the regular phone calls breaking up the loneliness of Jack’s week as the television and cleaning are often his only distractions.

Jack said: “I’ve been alone since my wife, Jean, passed away two years ago. I have a son who rings every day and visits once a week. I don’t have any carers, but got in touch with SCCCC after my wife died so that I would have some company as I am completely housebound. It’s then that I was paired with Fran.

“In many ways, the pandemic hasn’t affected my sense of loneliness as I have felt lonely ever since Jean passed away. We married when I was 19 and were married for 72 years.

Jack Daniels, 94, says he has felt lonely ever since his wife passed away

“I do worry about the pandemic though, because of the things I see on the news. I do my best to keep busy by watching the TV or listening to the radio, so at least there is some sort of sound. Either that, or I clean the house. It is very quiet where I live.

“I miss seeing Fran face-to-face every week, but she has replaced this with a phone call which I always enjoy. I’ve had my first vaccine, which gives me hope that I may see her again soon. Occasionally, she drops off a food parcel for me – passing it through the window to be safe.”

Fran, a volunteer for SCCCC’s Good Neighbour Scheme, said she has been so desperate to do something to help Jack, who’s not been out of the house since his wife passed away.

She said: “A few years ago there was a feature on the news about loneliness in older people. I contacted SCCCC to see if I could register to become a volunteer.

“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 loved 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. Although it’s not a substitute to seeing him, I know he does look forward to my calls. I love speaking to him and do so two or three times a week.

"He doesn’t have carers so doesn’t see many people, and it is really lonely for him without Jean, he misses her greatly.”

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 these calls may become friendly visits once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

To find out more 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.