A ground-breaking Fylde companionship group has made an urgent appeal for cash backing to ensure it can continue to meet the ever-increasing demand for its services.
Just Good Friends has already had to close its Kirkham operation because of funding issues and founder Bev Sykes says help is needed to ensure no cutbacks follow at its St Annes base.
The group, which has won national recognition for its activities and services aimed at combating loneliness, including the praise of Theresa May when she was Prime Minister, celebrated its seventh anniversary last month.
Having started off in St Annes in 2012 with just a handful of members, it has grown to more than 400 – but Bev’s ambitions to keep it growing are being hampered by increasing budget concerns.
“We are at a crossroads – that’s for sure,” said Bev, who gave up here job several years ago to become the Friends’ full-time co-ordinator.
“Over these seven years, we have been growing as the need for what we provide has continued to increase.
“We don’t just hold meetings and host activities – we meet a need and provide a community service for which there is more and more demand all the time.
“As well as regular social events, we have become a point of contact at local doctors’ surgeries in a bid to combat loneliness and my aim all along has been that we are there for the people who need us for life.
“But we need funding to be able to that and what we have received has been for limited periods, while what grants might be available also need sourcing and applying for.
“Our dedicated army of around 50 volunteers are wonderful but they can only do so much, while the kind donations we receive can only go so far.
“I estimate it takes a minimum of £25,000 to provide the services we need to be providing, to allow for room hire and other costs and we need help.
“We are keeping all the meetings and services in St Annes and our other operation in Fleetwood going for now but these are worrying times.
“I was so sad to see Kirkham go and if any more is reduced or worse, I feel I would be letting people down.
“If any companies or individuals out there can help us out in any way, we would be so grateful.”
Just Good Friends prides itself on being there for people of all ages.
As well as older members, it launched a project called Special Angels to address the loneliness and isolation of youths with autistic tendencies.
“The number of people we are encountering suffering from social isolation is quite incredible and JGF is addressing loneliness and isolation across the whole age spectrum, ” added Bev.
“It is clear the need is there and I feel I need to do everything I can to make this service available to as many people as I can,”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies, who patron of Just Good Friends, said: “I’m sorry to hear about the Kirkham arm of Just Good Friends; it is a superb group which helps people from all walks of life.
“The work this group’s members and volunteers carry out helps take the pressure off other services, as well as ensuring members do not feel alone or secluded.
“I’ll be meeting Bev to chat about future funding for the group, and looking at how best we can ensure this group is able to thrive in future.”
Anyone who can help is asked to ring Bev Sykes on 07557 734233.