More than 50 Ageless Thanet volunteers from across the isle attended a ceremony at Turner Contemporary last week to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Lord-Lieutenant of Kent, The Lady Colgrain, presented the award crystal and certificate from HM The Queen to Astrid Brenton and Clive Hart who received them on behalf of the 200 volunteers who have been involved in Ageless Thanet since it began seven years ago.
She congratulated each volunteer for the “passion and commitment you all show”.
Guests received individual certificates and badges in recognition of their dedication to making Thanet a great place to grow older. Volunteers were also honoured for their tireless work for the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ageless Thanet programme, run by Social Enterprise Kent, has had older volunteers at its heart since it began. With their help it has made huge strides in reducing loneliness and isolation among over 50s in Thanet. Some 75% of volunteers said they saw a reduction in feelings of loneliness and 86% said their feelings of being part of the community increased through the programme.
More than 200 volunteers have been involved since the start of the programme, giving over 10,000 hours of service.
Claudia Sykes OBE, CEO at Social Enterprise Kent, (pictured above) said: “The turnout was fantastic and it was good for everyone to get together.
“The volunteers have been running the Ageless Thanet programme in Thanet, working at all levels from setting up the programme to giving guidance and reducing isolation and running clubs. It was all about what the volunteers wanted to do, nothing was fixed. We were not managing it, just supporting, and hopefully that means it is sustainable and volunteers will keep as much of the programme going as possible.”
Rebecca Smith, Deputy CEO of Social Enterprise Kent and Ageless Thanet programme manager, added: “The programme was supposed to be five year, then we had another year and another. I am so glad we had that final year and didn’t finish when we were in covid (restrictions).
“Lots of things will continue, such as the 50+ festivals.
“Sometimes volunteers do not get a lot of recognition but last year they kept going through covid, online befriending, picking up prescriptions, so the Queen’s Award for voluntary service is special and there was extra recognition for work through covid. Everyone is so proud.”
Volunteer Jan Clare is a member of the Ageless Thanet governance panel. She said: “This was the firs time I had been out socially since before the lockdowns so I enjoyed it.”
Fellow volunteer, nurse and author Carol Salter (pictured above), added: “I helped during lockdown delivering in the villages. I live in Manston and love driving so was happy to do it. I was meeting people at their homes and sometimes I was the only person they had spoken to in a week or two.”
While the Ageless Thanet programme officially ends next month, Social Enterprise Kent and partners Your Leisure and Age UK are continuing its legacy through Kent County Council’s Universal Wellbeing Contract for Older People.
A number of volunteer groups are now running activities independently, including coffee mornings, social strolls and a quiz.
Find out more about Social Enterprise Kent at https://sekgroup.org.uk/