Armley Helping Hands has extended its reach to assist even more people in Leeds

A charity for older people has been helping all ages during the pandemic.

Tuesday, 8th September 2020, 4:45 pm
Armley Helping Hands’ board of trustees, staff and volunteers are pictured taking a break from their busy routine on an away day.

Armley Helping Hands, which normally deals with people aged 50 plus, has been acting as a community hub for Armley, Wortley, Farnley and Moor Top in lockdown.

Before Covid the charity was synonymous with face-to-face-activities like luncheon clubs, day trips and coffee mornings. Its other vital role is offering emotional support and guidance to people suffering from various conditions so they can remain independent as long as possible.

But under the Leeds City Council and Voluntary Action Leeds hub initiative, it has gained a much wider remit.

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Armley Helping Hands is always on the lookout for volunteers. Janice Turnbull and Avril Theapleton are pictured at a roadshow.

Armley Helping Hands chief executive officer, Dawn Newsome, summed up the situation neatly in a blog. Its first paragraph was, ‘How life has changed since the pandemic: from planning afternoon tea, to buying nappies, to delivering methadone. All in the day’s work at Armley Helping Hands’.

She told the YEP: “In a very short space our role expanded to all ages. We started distributing emergency food parcels, providing one-to-one support, personal shopping services, delivering medication, providing welfare checks and calls to people. Significantly, we have provided emotional support and telephone consultations to people with anxiety.

“This is where our roles changed from just working with older people. After 25 years of working with older people, I’m an expert on baby formula now.”

Its community work for people of all ages during lockdown was recently recognised with a virtual blue plaque from Leeds Civic Trust. They were nominated for it by Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.

Volunteer Peter Lorryman delivering an afternoon tea for the group’s silver anniversary.

Dawn has been with the charity since 1995 and has never been lured away despite several attempts. She added: “I love the job. I’ve been given other opportunities in the past and people have sort of pushed me towards other posts. But the great thing about this job is it is not just about a salary. It’s about feeling you are doing something worthwhile in your community in maintaining people’s independence. All my staff and volunteers get a lot of sense of reward. Just the simple thing of seeing a smile on their face is our reward.”

But like many charities, Armley Helping Hands is facing issues with funding. Its core funding has been secured by Leeds City Council and NHS Leeds, but that is only a small percentage of its cost expenditure. It also depends on grants and money from events it stages. But some grants will stop at the end of the financial year and new ones tend to be concentrating on short term covid-related projects. Its events also stopped in lockdown, and donations have slowed.

However, Dawn insisted the charity was “here to stay” and it needed to adapt to the new funding landscape. She said: “We don’t want to put the costs onto the older person. This has been a pandemic that has impacted all of us. We want to make sure that we resource other alternatives. We know everybody in the country is in the same situation. We are not going to disappear. We have got strong working partnerships within our community and have had the reassurance from Leeds City Council and NHS Leeds. We have got a commission contract for five years and that is safe. But it’s about those small, day-to-today expenses taking us forward and core grants.”

You can donate to the charity via localgiving.org/charity/armleyhelpinghands.

Richard Stettner and Joanne Brophy during the 2019 winter warmth campaign.

BACKGROUND:

ARMLEY Helping Hands has been assisting older people for 25 years.

The charity for people aged 50 and over, which is based at Strawberry Lane Community Centre, was set up in June 1995.

Armley Helping Hands, which also covers the Wortley area, was one of the neighbourhood networks established by Leeds City Council. But the charity has always been independent. A high percentage of older people are on its board of trustees and management committee, so decisions are made on the ground and geared to meet the needs of people in the area.

Armley Helping Hands' chairwoman Hazel Boutle and board of trustees secretary David Boutle at the group's swinging 60s event, which brought 100 older people and adults with learning disablities together to enjoy music from the decade.

Its chief executive officer, Dawn Newsome, said: “The charity’s main objective has always been to promote independence and to provide a quality of life for our retired,older people.”

As its silver anniversary fell during lockdown, the socially-minded charity had to think how to celebrate it within the restrictions. It decided to surprise 480 older people by delivering afternoon tea to their doors. Dawn added: “Every older person received an afternoon tea box with cream scones in, freshly-cooked chicken sandwiches and a pork pie. All the little traditional things. It brightened their day up as well because it was something different from the normal day-to-day essentials being brought to their door.”

For more information and to volunteer see: www.armleyhelpinghands.org.uk.