It’s always time for tea with Iris

Iris Brown, volunteer at Highfield Day Centre, making toast
Iris Brown, volunteer at Highfield Day Centre, making toast
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Iris Brown never misses a session as a volunteer at her local day centre.

Whatever the weather, and despite being in her 80s, Iris devotes her time twice a week to helping out at Highfield Day Centre, Highfield Road, in South Shore, and she has done for the last 15 years.

And her sterling efforts have not gone unnoticed – Iris was recently given an award from Blackpool Council.

She was honoured with a trophy in the Adults Helping Older People category, in the Blackpool’s Big Thank You Awards.

And while she enjoys her role, making the tea and toast, she modestly believes she isn’t doing anything remarkable.

She said: “I’ve been volunteering now for 23 years, 15 of those in Blackpool, as I moved here from Birmingham in 1999.

“It started after I was made redundant, I had always worked with a lot of people and had worked since I was 14.

“So I thought about volunteering and was lucky enough to volunteer at the local hospital.

“I carried on volunteering when I moved to Blackpool.

“I live in the local area and had noticed the centre, so I just popped in one day to ask about volunteering, had an interview and it went from there.”

Iris helps out at the centre twice a week – making tea, coffee and toast and being a friendly face and voice to welcome those who attend.

The former warehouse office worker said: “I’ve got two very nice gentleman volunteers who help me now too.

“I chat to the people who come in, I know most of them by name now.

“I’ve made quite a few friends through doing this and my husband Bill volunteers here too, he helps with the buses and gardening.

“I really enjoy it. I enjoy everything about it – I love meeting people and getting to know them.

“I’ve seen the centre really grow over the years, I love it when it’s busy.

“It’s a great facility to have for local people. There’s such a nice, friendly atmosphere.

“One lady once said to me she liked coming here, because it felt more like home than where she lived.

“I’d recommend volunteering to anybody.”

The day centre offers respite and activities such as knitting, baking, arts and crafts, and social occasions such as Christmas and summer fairs, to older people referred by social workers.

Lesley McShane, voluntary services officer, said Iris was invaluable for the centre.

“Iris has been here longer than most of the staff.

“We nominated her for the award because of her continuity – she’s always here, whatever the weather.

“She really helps the other volunteers, she makes everybody feel welcome, she’s so supportive. She really is fantastic.”

And while Iris was delighted to receive her award, she said: “I felt overwhelmed really.

“I don’t feel I’m doing anything more than anybody else. I just enjoy it, that’s why I do it.”

Anyone who would like to find out more about services at the day centre can contact Natalie Bainbridge on (01253) 476460.

To volunteer, call (01253) 476884 or email volunteers@blackpool.gov.uk