Who are Totnes Caring?

You will have seen the vans around town often enough and sometimes volunteers rattling collecting boxes outside Morrisons, but if you you’re not familiar with one of the most important support groups in Totnes, here’s more…

Set up in 1987 to provide support for the patients of the two GP practices in Totnes, over years the services have increased dramatically to meet the ever growing needs primarily of vulnerable, older people in Totnes and surrounding villages. Enabling them to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

Over the last year alone, Totnes Caring’s volunteer drivers have helped over 9,000 clients to and from their medical appointments, lunch clubs, art groups, memory cafes and more. Totnes Caring’s Chief Officer Bob Alford commented: “Of course, it’s not just about the numbers. All this was done with care and attention and a friendly ear for clients who are often apprehensive about their medical appointments. Our clients often tell us how re-assuring and caring they find our volunteer drivers.

Each year over 4000 meals were served at the Totnes Caring lunch clubs that take place every week, from Monday to Friday. “For many older people the lunches are a welcome
opportunity to have a freshly cooked hot meal in convivial surroundings while enjoying the company of others,” continued Bob “and any clients who are unable to make their own way there, are picked up and taken home by the Totnes Caring mini-bus. It has become a really important part of what we give the community.” Over its 30 years, the charity has regularly increased the number of activities it runs for the benefit of its clients. The Totnes Memory Cafes, came under Totnes Caring’s umbrella in 2017 and have now increased from two a month to every Friday, from 2pm to 4pm at the Totnes Boating Association. “We are delighted to have been able to offer more Memory Cafes, and brought in a dedicated member of staff to run them, as well as to offer wider support to those with dementia. The cafes are an opportunity for people with memory problems, and their families and friends, to meet socially in a friendly, safe and supportive environment,” commented Bob.

Over a cup of tea and biscuits they can relax, chat and share information and experiences. If they wish, they can also join in activities such as singing, music and games.‘’ In 2017, following the initiative of one of the volunteers, Totnes Caring started a weekly art club which provides therapeutic art activities for seven to 10 of Totnes Caring’s clients, with high support needs, who attend each week. This has had such a positive impact on the client’s health and wellbeing, that in 2018 Totnes Caring introduced a further weekly art club. Other regular clubs under Totnes Caring’s umbrella include the weekly New Directions activity club, where attendees get involved in a wide range of activities from bell ringing to crafting and also go on occasional trips.

The COPD club is a weekly specialist meeting for those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The main focus of the club is on fun and gentle exercise, as well as social interaction and support. “Our home-help service, providing valuable assistance with housework, laundry and other household tasks is invaluable to many of our clients.. One client called it a ‘life saver’ and it was recently rated by over 90% of respondents as ‘excellent’. Totnes Caring by name and nature” said Bob. All the charity’s home–helps are fully trained, insured, DBS checked and very personable and the service is offered at a reasonable hourly rate.

Another service providing a real lifeline are the two link workers, Sue Alford and Jenny Ubsdell, who work with the most vulnerable clients to ensure that they have all the right support, whether this is from Totnes Caring itself or others. As their name suggests, the link workers work closely with the statutory, voluntary and private sectors. “Of course most of what Totnes Caring does would not happen without the commitment of our volunteers” Bob offered.

A recent survey of the over 200 volunteers involved with the charity highlighted how much volunteering means to them. An incredible 100% of respondents said they would recommend volunteering with Totnes Caring to their friends; “It’s great to have the opportunity to provide a helping hand to others.  I also appreciate the training and support provided by Totnes Caring,” says Suzanne Westgate, while Sandra Nicolson, said she thoroughly enjoys working with Totnes Caring, ‘’ I find them to be the most welcoming, friendly and can do group of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Volunteering as a helper on the Lunch Club Bus has been rewarding and fun.  I love to hear the clients chat about the interesting lives they have led.’’

Totnes Caring’s volunteers are from all walks of life and of all ages. While some choose to volunteer on a very regular basis others just dip in and out as it suits them and appreciate the charity’s flexibility. As well as driving and helping at the lunch and activity clubs, volunteers shop for and befriend clients, help with form filling and IT issues, as well as helping fundraise for the charity.

Surprisingly Totnes Caring does not receive direct funding for providing and co-ordinating their services and are very reliant on fundraising and support from the community. They are very grateful for the money raised from their street collections, and also for the individual support from local people who value the work of the Charity, like Martin Baylis who
organises quiz evenings, and the Chubb family who every year run a very successful Bingo night.
An important fundraiser – and valuable social occasion for the Totnes community – is the monthly bazaar and coffee mornings, which take place on the third Friday of every month at the Totnes Methodist Hall. “Together with a variety of stalls selling good quality second hand books, clothes and bric-a-brac, people flock to Pat and Sue’s famous cake stall” comments Bob Alford, “A cup of tea or coffee and a piece of home-made cake for just £1 must be one of the town’s biggest bargains!

Totnes Caring could not do the valuable work it does for the community without all the support and help with fundraising it receives from the wider community, from individuals,
schools, businesses and community groups such as the Totnes Rotary, the Totnes WI and the Totnes Townswomen’s Guild.

Unfortunately, funds are always tight and, if possible, Totnes Caring encourages local people to consider including a gift to the charity in their Wills. Each year during Will month local solicitors support the charity by waiving their fee in return for an appropriate donation to Totnes Caring.

Anyone who would like to find out more about Totnes Caring’s services or about how they might help the charity should contact them on 01803 865 684 or info@totnescaring.org

March  26th 2019 (with thanks to Mary Popham)
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