Fringe Box



Community Connectors Really Make A Difference To People’s Lives

Published on: 16 Dec, 2014
Updated on: 22 Dec, 2014

A PROJECT that connects lonely or isolated elderly people with a ‘friend’ who helps them to overcome their difficulties is proving to be a vital free service in the north Guildford area.

Community Connectors has been operating for two years, but funding was running out. Now, courtesy of a £10,000 grant from the Poyle Trust, it can continue.

Community Connectors' co-ordinator Denise Graves (left) with Ray Ashcroft, who has participated and benefitted from the scheme, and Connector Pat Stacey.

Community Connectors’ co-ordinator Denise Graves (left) with Ray Ashcroft, who has participated and benefitted from the scheme, and Connector Pat Stacey.

The project is managed by Voluntary Action South West Surrey and is co-ordinated by Denise Graves. She recruits the volunteer Connectors and after initial training they are paired with an elderly person in need of help.

Denise said: “Our Connectors help in all kinds of ways. It may be just talking to that person, or taking them to the shops if they have lost the confidence themselves to go outdoors. In many cases it is assisting them so they obtain the right care package or liaising with social services or the council on their behalf.”

Preferring to refer to them as participants rather than clients, those manly elderly people in need are referred to Denise by a range of people within the local communities of Stoke, Stoughton and Westborough. She said: “We couldn’t do this work without the contact we have with local churches. People there get to know those in need. We also receive referrals from the council’s community wardens, the probation service, police community support officers and local residents.

Each Connector usually volunteers half a day a week for six or seven weeks with each elderly person. By the end of that time they hope to have resolved some of the issues at hand and perhaps helped them by introducing them and encouraging them (if they wish) to visit a local group, or in some cases to even become a Connector themselves. But the contact continues afterwards as Denise makes regular follow-up calls to those who have been helped.

Denise said: “When I first meet and talk with a person who needs our help I find they are often in crisis and angry. I ask them about their wellbeing and what would make a difference in their lives. People who are lonely often don’t see that in themselves.

“Some have animosity with local services – we help to bridge that gap.

“I then match that person with a Connector. Our Connectors are good listeners, non-judgmental and want to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Describing some of the many ways they have helped, Denise added: “We helped one person move house, which has made such an improvement in her life. Another was given a lift to a chair-based exercise class at the Park Barn Centre, which was really appreciated. One man, who cares for his mother, hadn’t got out of his home much. The connector helped by linking him up with Crossroads Care Surrey that gives a break to people who are carers.

“We have helped people to receive refunds on their home care services. We can provide them with lots of literature and details of benefits and services they can access such as the Surrey Healthy Homes keep warm packs for winter. We have helped people through a bereavement and in some cases have found them volunteering roles that they have taken up as they adjust to a new way of life.”

Community Connectors is creating space in people’s lives in which they can solve some of the problems they are facing. Furthermore, the knowledge that comes from the problem solving often ripples out into the community, thus in turn benefitting others.

“Denise said: “The project is a learning curve for all of us involved as we age and things change in our lives. Although the project was set up for older people, we are also now working with people under the age of 40.

“We are always keen to recruit more Connectors, particularly men. And a young mum spoke to me recently saying that she walks past a flat each day and has noticed a woman standing on her balcony looking lonely. ‘Am I allowed to help?’ the mum asked me. Yes, of course she can.”

If you would like to become a Community Connector, or find out more about what’s involved, or if you or you know someone that may benefit from the service call Denise Graves at Voluntary Action South West Surrey on 01483 504626, or 07825 417204. Email:


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