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Bramley Elderly Action crowned as the Leeds winner of Virgin Media’s ‘Local Legend’ campaign

Words: Josie Armitage

Bramley Elderly Action and volunteers have been recognised for their significant contribution and vital support and activities for local older people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The staff and volunteers have worked selflessly to provide vital support and activities for 1000 people aged 60 and over in Bramley, Swinnow and Stanningley.

They have delivered weekly shopping and care packages; carried out regular video and telephone calls for those in isolation; run virtual quizzes, online social groups, telephone reading groups and much more.

Fran Graham, BEA services and development manager, said:

“Everyone here is very passionate about what they do and have worked tirelessly to support those most vulnerable during these tough times.

“We have also been inspired by the resilience and cheerfulness of local older people in the face of this situation, and by the local community’s response in offering to help out or donating items of use.”

The charity was voted the winner for Leeds by a prestigious judging panel made up of the late Captain Sir Tom Moore, TV presenter and children’s author Konnie Huq, members from Leeds Council and a Virgin Media representative.

The prizes include a £10,000 tech makeover which will be put to good use, enabling BEA to distribute tablets and laptops to support people in the area and keep loneliness and social isolation at bay.

Fran said:

“We’ll use the prizes to invest in more of what we do now: reducing social isolation. In particular we want to enable older people to be able to get online and socialise with others through groups we run such as our Monday Sketchclub on Zoom and our Thursday Zoom quiz. The tablets, laptops and other tech appliances will make a huge difference.”

The group of dedicated volunteers didn’t expect to be rewarded or acknowledged for the work that they do through the charity.  Being nominated and winning the Local Legends campaign for Leeds was a great occasion and moment for all of those involved. 

Volunteers Jennie Castlehouse and Iola Shaw are happy to play their part to help others.

Jennie Castlehouse

Jennie got involved in volunteering during the first lockdown by delivering books and jigsaws on runs organised by the BEA.  She then offered to help out more, which led to shopping for the vulnerable to keep her busy whilst her salon was closed. 

Jennie said:

“I enjoy helping out.  It’s very rewarding but mostly I absolutely adore all the residents I deliver to. I have a quick chat whilst delivering their shopping as I really care about how they are getting on. It’s very difficult living alone, so checking they are doing ok every time I go is a priority for me.”

Iola Shaw

Iola started volunteering at BEA in September 2019 with the dementia group and the stroke groups.

She got involved with volunteering at BEA as it was a local organisation she was familiar with. When lockdown started, Iola was working from home so was keen to use her non-working day to volunteer.

Iola said:

“I enjoy actually seeing the impact of my actions, which working in strategy and policy development it’s hard to do. 

“volunteering is enabling me to have meaningful face to face  interaction with people and I’m enjoying their company. I would have gone insane from working from home and living alone without my weekly sanity check and as Covid-times end I hope to expand on this experience and end up with a related job.”

Councillors Caroline Gruen, Jools Heselwood and Kevin Ritchie (Lab, Bramley & Stanningley) congratulated BEA staff and volunteers. In a statement they said:

“This is a hugely well-deserved award for a beloved local charity which has done so much to support older people for years, and has adapted superbly to continue working during the pandemic.

“We’ve always been impressed and surprised with how Bramley Elderly Action have managed to keep our older people smiling and socially active, and we’re never sure what they’ll think of next.

“We’d encourage anyone to volunteer with Bramley Elderly Action and to take care of your neighbours and older friends and family during this difficult time.”

Why not get involved?

BEA is always on the lookout for volunteers.  If anyone who is over 18 and living in the local area, is feeling lonely and would like to help out, keep busy and make friends, get in touch with BEA here.

If you’re over 60, you can join in their weekly online and phone activities including Sketchclub, Social, Craft Group, quiz – all over Zoom; Phone Reading Group and bingo or the new just starting Bake-Off via What’s App! Once lockdown lifts, face to face groups including Walking Football and Walking Groups will be back too. 


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