“I was looking for a reason to get up. I found a new group of friends.”
In 2017 Kath Coley lost her partner of 33 years. It’s never easy coping with such an enormous loss and Kath recognised that without David, she needed a new sense of purpose in her life.
“I wanted something to do, a reason to get up. My doctor suggested that I think about volunteering,” she explains.
Kath lives near to Corsers Court, a retirement living community in Perton. She had spent a lot of time in the scheme when her mother lived in one of the apartments and still knew quite a few members of staff. She wondered whether she might be able to do something useful there.
As well as befriending residents who are at risk of social isolation, Kath now runs the lively Knit and Natter group at Corsers Court. Listening to the sound of laughter as the knitting needles fly, it’s obvious that volunteering has transformed the community as much as the volunteer herself.
“I’ve made a wonderful new group of friends and I’ve always got plenty to do, sorting out patterns and arranging for our knitted toys to benefit fantastic charities at home and abroad. I needed a purpose and I’m so busy now that my youngest daughter has to do some of my cleaning!”
Frieda is one of the ladies knitting and nattering. When we visit, she’s putting the finishing touches to an oven glove. “I used to knit but I hadn’t touched my needles in years. You need someone to get you enthusiastic about things and Kath has certainly done that, she’s got us all knitting now. I really look forward to our little group. We all help each other out and we share wool, needles and patterns.”
The knitters share news and anecdotes, too.
“We never stop talking and there’s a lot of laughter,” says Kath. “We’ll giggle over funny stories, talk about our families and about things we’ve read in the news. We have given up discussing Brexit for now, though.”
Frieda points out that there is another subject off limits: “We try never to talk about our aches and pains,” she says.
Mary is hard at work on a beautiful set of egg cosies. She’s planning to surprise her family by giving them each an egg cup containing a chocolate egg and handmade cosy. By the side of her, a row of cosies has already been completed: “I’ve got a big family,” she laughs. “I used to love knitting when I was younger but I stopped because my hands got painful. I’ve loved picking up the needles again and it definitely helps us to mix. Nattering is just as important as knitting.”
Sarah Wilson is the engagement and volunteer coordinator at Care Plus, which manages Corsers Court. She knows the Knit and Natter group well:
“You can hear them laughing before you walk into the residents’ lounge and once or twice they’ve made me blush with some of their stories,” she says. “We always think about volunteering as contributing something but in fact, volunteers like Kath get a huge amount out of the experience, too.
“As well as leading the Knit and Natter group, Kath is a befriender at Corsers Court, dropping in to visit people who might find it difficult to get around. It’s noticeable that the people she’s befriended have become more confident and have even started to attend the group.
“One can be a very lonely number and social isolation has real health consequences. As a befriender and as a knitter, Kath is making a fantastic difference.
“Volunteers tend to be very modest and sometimes don’t realise the importance of what they do, yet they are often the people who keep our communities together. If you can spare a little time, share your skills or simply sit down for a cuppa with someone, you could change a life.”
**Volunteers’ Week runs from 1-7 June. **
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Clare Chick .