Salt of the Earth: Meet Maggie Willders who is helping to tackle loneliness in Scarborough

If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s what it is like to be alone.

Friday, 12th June 2020, 3:35 pm
Updated Friday, 12th June 2020, 3:38 pm
Maggie Willder

Many of us have passionately missed friends and family, finding new and different ways to engage with our social groups both online and over the phone.

It’s almost impossible to imagine what life would be like if the lockdown restrictions were to stay in place for a year, or possibly even longer.

However, there was one section of society that was already acutely aware of what it is like to spend all day, every day alone.

103-year-old Winifred King

Those who are elderly, disabled or suffering from ill health frequently find themselves cut off from those around them and can become increasingly lonely and isolated as a result.

Many of these are offered a lifeline by the amazing group of volunteers who work with the Age UK Scarborough and District befriending service.

This week’s Salt of the Earth, Maggie Willders, is one such volunteer.

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Maggie was a visiting befriender, where she would call round to see people in their homes.

However, since the lockdown, Maggie has been staying in touch with those she is in regular contact with via telephone.

She calls them a couple of times a week to check on their wellbeing and to see if they need anything.

Maggie says they talk about all sorts of things: “I phone one lady who is 103 and it’ll get to 45 minutes and she’ll say I think I’ve got to stop now

“They never stop talking really, bless ‘em. Often they talk about family business they can’t talk about with anybody else.”

Maggie ,who spent 20 years as a catering manager at Little Chef before becoming a carer for Linden Care, is no stranger to volunteering. For two years she volunteered with the RVS at Scarborough Hospital.

“I was working five day a week from 7am-2pm each day. It was like being back at work and I’m retired. So I got in touch with Age UK Scarborough and District to see what I could do for them.”

The befriending service ran out of money in November and as yet CEO Julie Macey-Hewitt has been unable to find a new source of funding.

It costs around £40,000 a year to run including money for a full-time member of staff and covering petrol costs and other expenses.

The service helps up to 80 people at any one time and has 46 befrienders who are available to those in need.

The befriending service is currently closed to new applicants although existing users are still catered for.

While the service was active, Maggie would go out to visit those put forward by doctors, social workers or family members to see if the befriending service would be a good fit for them.

For those who met the criteria, Maggie would help to match befrienders with the people who need them. “If someone is quieter, we try and find a befriender who is more outgoing and can draw them out of themselves,” she said.

Julie Macey-Hewitt said: “Maggie’s a star. She doesn’t only do befriending, she helps with assessments, afternoon teas and book deliveries.

“When lockdown is over we’re going to start a luncheon club. She always looks to help, she’s always smiling, always got time.”

One lady Maggie has befriended is Winifred King, who lives on Holbeck Hill, Scarborough. Mrs King said: “I do get lonely and when they said about lockdown I said I’d never survive, I was horrified.

“It must have been a week later and I thought well I got through this week fine - everybody else is lonely - family couldn’t come, friends couldn’t come, we’re all in the same boat.

“When Maggie comes she talks and she’s very knowledgeable about Social Services which I know nothing about.

“She’s taken me out, not regularly, but every now and again.

“One day, I said I’d like to go to Aldi and she took me. I bought the shop up. Then she said would you like to go to B&M? So we did. By the end of the day we were both exhausted and spent up!

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you