Jo Henderson co-ordinates volunteers at Blackpool Carers’ Centre. She oversees the sitting service – offering respite to carers – and lots of other services.
Right now she’s actively recruiting for more sitters … and for crusaders to represent the charity’s interests in the community.
Jo says: “You can give as much or as little time as you want – anything will make a difference to the quality of life for carers and cared for alike. You don’t have to be a carer to help, often they have little time, but we find some former carers like to stay involved.
“They see it as giving something back. And many just care enough to want to help.”
Sitting service ranks now include a man who survived a bombing and was honoured for saving three soldiers from a burning ambulance. But Mark Eddiford, who works as a photographer in Blackpool, says the “real heroes” are unsung unpaid carers.
“They go beyond the call of duty by any definition,” says Mark, a former army paramedic, who survived the bombing of supply ship Sir Galahad in the Falklands War.
He later got the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery after putting his life on the line to rescue three soldiers in Germany when the ambulance they were travelling in crashed and caught fire.
Volunteers can help at the charity’s network of high street shops, run by retail manager Fiona Roberts, or at the new Church Street Carers’ base which is soon to open.
There’s a new social enterprise, too, the Wood Hub, where qualified joiners and apprentices, helped by volunteers, recycle wood into arts and crafts for the shops.
The team also build bespoke gates and sheds to order.
Carer Charlie Sherrington, 70, has looked after his wife Jean since she had a stroke – and they both looked after their daughter Paula, who also had a stroke, until her death at 46 last year.
Now Charlie invests time in the Wood Hub, helping produce woodwork, often embellished with art by his wife, for sale at the shops. “I see it as giving something back,” he explains.”
Both the Carers Centre and the Stroke Unit couldn’t have done more to help us. Now it’s our turn.”
Tony Edmonds, a former paid care worker, says he’s repaying the service for helping him with the care of his mum who was diagnosed with dementia.
“Teresa Dufty, the adult carers’ support worker, who does a lot of work with GPs , did so much to help us. I knew my mother was ill but didn’t know she had dementia until Teresa stepped in and got it properly diagnosed.
“It’s still difficult and it’s going to get more so – but at least I know what I’m dealing with and that I have friends who will help me.”
Today, Tony delivers the quarterly Caring Times, the centre’s magazine, direct to community centres, GP surgeries, hospitals, health centres, libraries.
Others go out to carers locally – and others nationally through the Carers Trust network partnership. “It’s a brilliant service. I’m glad to help.”
To assist financially, or as a volunteer, or to refer a carer for help, call Blackpool Carers’ Centre on (01253) 393748, or use the contact form on the website www.blackpoolcarers.org. You can follow @blackpoolcarers on Twitter. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Blackpool Carers’ Centre, Norman House, Robson Way, Blackpool FY3 7PP. To become a volunteer email email@example.com