‘Effect of loneliness must never be underestimated’

Joanne Kendall, Christine Howe and founder Bev Sykes at a Just Good Friends awareness event
Joanne Kendall, Christine Howe and founder Bev Sykes at a Just Good Friends awareness event
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The founder of a companionship group which has quickly proved a massive hit in St Annes is looking to expand it across the whole of Fylde.

Bev Sykes has seen membership of Just Good Friends rocket towards 200 in little more than four years – and has now given up her job to become the organisation’s full-time co-ordinator with a view to ensuring its growth.

“The need is there and I am determined to do everything I can to make this service available to as many people as I can,” said Bev, who set up Just Good Friends in 2012 as an opportunity for anyone who was feeling isolated to meet for a chat with others.

She quickly saw it outgrow its early home at St Annes YMCA and with a variety of regularly meetings now held at venues including St Annes Palace and the Victoria pub, membership has climbed rapidly.

Bev says regulars travel from as far away as Freckleton to the St Annes get-togethers and she is looking to enlist the held of Fylde councillors in a bid to see the service extended to other parts of Fylde.

“I am intending to write to all 51 Fylde councillors pointing out how vital a companionship organisation is and see what can be done to extend it Fylde-wide,” said Bev.

“From starting with around a dozen at our first meeting in 2012, the response has been amazing and many of our members say they don’t know what they would do without us.

“The effect of loneliness should never be under-estimated and giving people something to look forward to really makes a substantial difference to their lives.

“We have also introduced regular events and even the ‘bucket list’ wish list in which members get to see their dreams come true. That has proved a really big hit.”

Just Good Friends won the top award at the recent Time To Shine community awards held at Blackpool Tower, while it is also the charity of the year at Sainsbury’s store in St Annes.

“Awareness of what we do is increasing all the time, while simple word of mouth has also had a big effect and we are getting inquiries all the time from further and further afield about how people can get involved,” added Bev.

“We already welcome people from some distance beyond St Annes but it would be good to be able to arrange a regular presence in other areas.

“I think it is vital we make that happen and I felt the only way I could was to give up my job as a carers’ health worker and do this full-time.

“We also need more volunteers so I would be delighted to hear from anyone who is willing to get involved in that way.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “Just Good Friends is a wonderful organisation that I simply cannot say enough good things about.

“Bev Sykes is a great inspiration. Just Good Friends has changed the lives of hundreds of people for the better.”

Call Bev on 07557 734233 for more details.

Read more about Just Good Friends here