Wetherby in Support of the Elderly (WiSE) is a small local charity which aims to improve quality of life for the over 60s by providing community based activities, information, help and support. In a completely unprecedented time for everybody, WISE had to quickly step forward to deliver a whole range of new services to support not just the over 60s, but also people shielding and vulnerable due to the onset of the pandemic.
Here, Mark Dobson, Chief Operating Officer at WiSE reflects on the last two years, and tells how stepping up during the pandemic has made the charity stronger and more popular than ever with the area’s older community.
“When coronavirus first hit, sadly many of our core services had to be quickly suspended. All of the charity’s services are designed to reduce loneliness and isolation in older people, but mainly through face-to-face initiatives.
“When these stopped, we knew we wanted to help in a different way. We quickly stepped up and become the operational hub for North East Leeds. It involved offering essential support to people like shopping, food parcels, prescription deliveries and a much-needed lifeline through a telephone befriending system which we established right away.
“We quickly adapted to the new reality to offer much-needed support to vulnerable people. It was also a year when we expanded and developed our partnerships by working closely with the local authority, councillors, Voluntary Action Leeds, church and community groups and a new cohort of incredible volunteers who stepped forward to help deliver essential services on the ground.
“For the majority of 2020, this was our role in the community. But 2021 was more positive for everyone. There was light at the end of the tunnel. For WiSE, 2021 it was a year of two halves. The first half saw us continuing to work as a Covid hub. We also assisted with the vaccination rollout, made thousands of wellbeing calls, and hundreds of telephone befriending sessions.
“Then, after a lot of work behind the scenes, we were able to restart our key services in a safe and controlled manner, once coronavirus restrictions were lifted in the summer. It was a proud moment when our much loved WiSE Owl Café at Boston Spa Village Hall reopened – albeit outside only at first – and our activities timetable relaunched, along with our Grass Cutting, Transport and Information & Advice schemes.
“Since then, we have clocked up some impressive statistics! From July to the end of December 2021, around 1,800 coffees, 1,500 cups of tea and 850 scones have been served to 2,775 visitors to the WiSE Owl Café. WiSE has staged 83 social activities, from chairobics, aerobics and line dancing to knitting, crafting, music sessions – and even a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party! Events now take place in eight different venues across Wetherby, Boston Spa, Thorner and Bramham.
“Sixty-one people have had their grass cut each month. More than 130 transport journeys have been completed, whereby the charity’s volunteers drive older people to activities or social engagements they would otherwise not have been able to attend. Plus, twenty-four people have received contact from a friendly caller or visitor. There have also been 264 contacts via the Information and Advice service. Thanks to Debbie, our super-creative activities coordinator, we also welcomed a new mascot – Ollie Beak, who makes regular appearances at activities and events. In all, WiSE supported 4,839 older people since July last year – a pretty outstanding feat and we’re so thankful for everyone involved. We could not have done this without the support of the community to deliver a vital range of services under the most trying of circumstances.
“So what is the future for WiSE? There is still a level of uncertainty. What we delivered during the pandemic is work we intend to continue where and when needed but, we now think it is time to begin to re-emerge from the clouds of the last two years.
“Our mission for 2022 is to build on our successes by enhancing our core services. To do this effectively we are now appealing for volunteers, fundraisers and corporate sponsors in all different areas. Anything you can do to help really does make a massive difference to the quality of life in older people in Wetherby in its surrounding area.”
There are many ways you can support Wetherby in Support of the Elderly
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our work. Our Volunteer Co-ordinator welcomes enquiries from people 16 and over who want to support their local community by volunteering at activities, as a befriender, in the WiSE Owl Café or by providing transport.
There are thousands of ways to fundraise for WiSE – the possibilities are endless. Every penny we raise helps to improve the quality of life for an older person in Wetherby and surrounding villages. Whatever you decide to do, we will be here to support you.
Are you a local business looking for a new Charity of the Year? WiSE hopes that businesses big and small will consider backing their cause, in recognition of the award-winning work it has done improving the quality of life for older people.
Any amount of money can go a long way to supporting our work with some of the most isolated older people in our communities. You can make a one off donation on our website via JustGiving or Paypal, or post a cheque to our office (please no cash!)
Follow WiSE on Facebook @wetherbywise or Twitter @InWetherby to help us spread the word about our news, events and services.