#2016hours: Help us to help the lonely by donating your time

Ted Franklin, 80, of Chapel Allerton, Leeds, with volunteer befriender Bob Burns.
Picture James Hardisty.Ted Franklin, 80, of Chapel Allerton, Leeds, with volunteer befriender Bob Burns.
Picture James Hardisty.
Ted Franklin, 80, of Chapel Allerton, Leeds, with volunteer befriender Bob Burns. Picture James Hardisty.
As we mark two years of the Yorkshire Post's Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, we launch a new volunteering drive - #2016hours. Lindsay Pantry reports.

JUST an hour a week can transform the life of lonely person - and now the Yorkshire Post is calling on its readers to donate their time to do exactly that.

To mark the second anniversary of the launch of the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, we are launching a new drive to urge our readers to donate a combined 2,016 hours of their time to the Royal Voluntary Service - which runs dozens of services to combat loneliness and social isolation across Yorkshire.

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There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, from befriending in Bradford to helping out at a lunch club in Pickering. We will be profiling the specific roles available, and want you to tell us how you’re getting involved by contacting us or by using the #2016hours hashtag on Twitter.

Paul Taylor, head of support and development at the charity, said: “Everybody in the region is aware that local authorities, the NHS and CCGs are struggling for funds. It’s a fact of life that the voluntary sector needs to help.

People volunteering their time is the most important gift they can give. It makes a real difference to people’s lives. Even giving up an hour of your time can make an impact.”

Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic has encouraged Yorkshire Post readers to volunteer for support services since its launch in February 2014, but this new drive to find people for specific roles where help is needed most will give fresh prominence to the work that charities like the Royal Voluntary Service are doing in all of our communities - and keep loneliness in the forefront of people’s minds..

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Mr Taylor said: “By launching #2016hours, it will give us the chance to keep the issue of loneliness and isolation among older people in the public eye.

“There will be someone living down the road from you who is alone. Even in thriving communities there will be older people who are isolated.”

Older people like Ted Franklin. The 80-year-old from Chapel Allerton was at a very low ebb when he came across the Royal Voluntary Service. After a decade of caring for his wife, who had Alzheimer’s, he was alone, and his own health was suffering.

But he said weekly visits from befriender Bob Burns, 63, of Alwoodley, were a “gift from God” and helped him come to terms with his changed life.

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Mr Burns, a volunteer with Chapel Allerton Good Neighbours, befriends two people - Ted and Donald - and also helps with transport, taking a couple to a singing group. He started volunteering after retiring from the civil service, where he was a mechanical engineer.

Mr Burns says he gets a “buzz” from volunteering, and has relished seeing the improvements in Mr Franklin.

“Here was someone in turmoil, who wanted to move on in his life, but didn’t know how,” Mr Burns said. “It’s not like a duty to me, I’m going to see my mate Ted. We pop out, sometime go for a meal up the road, or go shopping.

“I have seen him grow and come out of himself. For ten years he was looking after his wife with dementia, and it’s hard to come out of that. He spurs me on, because he’s always looking to the future.”

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Mr Franklin added: “I can depend on Bob for almost anything, and I am so grateful to the RVS for introducing him to me. The point I am trying to get across is this - if you are lonely, unwell or depressed, there are people who want to help you. Genuine, kind people at the RVS want to see you enjoy yourself again. So please, give them a ring. I did.”

If you would like to volunteer, or to find out more information, call 0845 608 0122. Alternatively sign up via www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk Please mention #2016hours

Not able to give your time? You can still show your support for the RVS by texting YORK20 followed by the amount you wish to donate (£3, £5, £10) to 70070.

How the RVS helps the lonely

The Royal Voluntary Service supports over 100,000 older people each month to stay independent in their own homes for longer with tailor made solutions.

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Through its army of volunteers, the charity runs services such as Good Neighbours, which provides companionship; Meals-on-Wheels and Books-on-Wheels that alleviate loneliness and help older people and practical support for older people who have been in hospital through its On-ward Befriending and Home from Hospital services and via its network of retail shops and cafes.