HRH Princess Alexandra attended the 40th birthday of Hampshire’s Good Neighbours Service at Winchester Cathedral, celebrating 40 years of volunteers in Hampshire carrying out acts of kindness for their neighbours. Founded in 1976 with just 6 groups, the Good Neighbours Support Service now supports more than 120 Good Neighbours groups and over 4,000 volunteers across the county.
Good Neighbours volunteers play a key role in providing help in the community, such as offering transport to health appointments, lunch clubs and social contact to reduce loneliness and isolation, and practical support in times of need.
Groups also offer wider social activities such as trips to cafés, National Trust sites and concerts at local venues such as Winchester Cathedral. Some groups offer a wide range of neighbourly help such as shopping, sitting for carers and even minor repairs.
Andrew Robinson, Chief Executive of the Diocese of Winchester and Chairman of Hampshire Good Neighbours Co-ordinating Committee, paid tribute to the volunteers at the event. He said: “Whether it is a local driver, befriender or a community lunch club, the support undertaken by Good Neighbours provides a vital lifeline to many in our communities – especially those who may otherwise feel lonely and isolated.
“The continued willingness of people to help others in their local communities is a message of hope and encouragement that we want to proclaim.”
The birthday celebration was also an opportunity to honour the exceptional contributions made by individual volunteers. HRH Princess Alexandra presented an award to two remarkable volunteers, Chris Cornwell, chairman of Hartley Witney Voluntary Care Group, and Lynne Line from Botley Neighbourcare, who is featured on the Good Neighbours promotional video which has helped raise its profile across the county and more widely.
Hartley Wintney Voluntary Care Group has 70 volunteers who perform three main services to the community – driving older people to hospital appointments, offering a befriending service, and running a dementia café each Tuesday afternoon. The drivers make 600 trips a year between them.
Chris said: “When I retired in 2008, I decided to become a full-time volunteer. I’d seen the effects of children, nephews and nieces moving away from older relatives who then became isolated – indeed two of my relatives became isolated like this. I was determined to give something back to the village, so became a parish councillor, set up a community bus scheme, created an over 55s forum and got involved with U3A.”
Hampshire Good Neighbours has developed considerably from its inception in 1976 to now being one of the largest providers of very local community support in the UK. In 2015 it provided an estimated £8m of volunteer time across Hampshire. Find out more here.