‘The best thing about it is seeing Les smile’

Volunteer Jimmy Clarke (right) with Les

Volunteer Jimmy Clarke (right) with Les

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For Jimmy Clarke, what started off as a nervy adventure into the world of volunteering has helped him find a friend for life.

Just over one year ago, Jimmy, 59, decided to help out in the community by volunteering his own time to help others.

Following training he was matched as a ‘sitter’ for another local resident Les Jones and his wife Hilary through Blackpool Council’s sitting service.

Les, of North Shore, suffers from multiple sclerosis, leaving him unable to carry out simple tasks such as making a cup of tea, and needs constant supervision to check he is safe.

Hilary looks after him seven days a week, but uses the council’s sitting service once a fortnight to provide her some respite to carry out the food shop as well as enjoy some time to herself.

Jimmy said: “I wanted to help people where I could, not only to keep me busy but to give something back to the community too.

“I couldn’t do anything physical but I could definitely sit and talk to somebody.

“Even after going through all the training, I was nervous about meeting Les and Hilary. What if we didn’t get on? What if I didn’t know what to do?

“Thankfully, the minute I walked through the door we got on and were making each other laugh. We’ll sit together and watch the cricket or the golf and make jokes about it.

“Les’ illness means his muscles might not be working, but his brain is still as sharp as anything.

“The best bit about volunteering is to see Les smiling. I think Les appreciates me being there too, as I’m an outsider talking to him about something different than just his illness.”

The council’s sitting service has 35 trained volunteers who all provide respite care for families. The service is always recruiting new volunteers and Jimmy is encouraging more people to take it up.

He added: “I wouldn’t have thought about volunteering but for people like me with spare time it’s very worthwhile.”

Coun Maria Kirkland, the council’s cabinet member for Third Sector Engagement, said: “Giving up just a short part of your week is a small undertaking but it can have a huge impact for both the person being volunteered for and the volunteer themselves.”

• Call (01253)476884, or email volunteering@blackpool.gov.uk