Fringe Box



A Great Place That Helps To Bring People Together

Published on: 12 Aug, 2014
Updated on: 12 Aug, 2014

Journalist Anna Valentina is from Russia and currently living in Guildford. Through the Guildford Volunteer Centre she is writing news and features for the Joining In! project’s website that supports community involvement in Westborough and Park Barn.

Here is one of Anna’s stories – about the Park Barn Centre, which offers a warm welcome to older residents.

A nice society around us, good friends at our side, common interests to talk about – these are the things we usually want regardless of our position, gender, age, or anything else.

As we age, these treasures might become even more important and more valued than ever before. Quite a lot of older people are lonely, but still want to be independent and to have the company of others who will easily understand them. For them maybe the best way to find such a person might be to pop in to the local community centre for older people. Fortunately there is one in Guildford – the Park Barn Centre.

The doors of this centre are open from Monday to Friday. There are plenty of things to do – line dancing, bingo and quizzes, cookery lessons, indoor bowling, arranging flowers and so on. Users of the centre are free to choose.

Almost every month there are themed meals with live entertainment. The previous theme was the music of ABBA, and the next one is expected to be about Hawaii, sometime in August. There is a constant buzz of something new here.

New players are always welcome at the Friday whist club at the Park Barn Centre.

New players are always welcome at the Friday whist club at the Park Barn Centre.

One of the frequent visitors is Joan Page. In fact, she has been visiting the centre since it opened in 1998. Previously she was either dancing or playing cards here, but now Joan keeps solely to the latter hobby. She puts all her passion in it, and if you pop in on a Friday afternoon to the whist club, you might easily tell if the cards are really hot for her!

Derek and Sandy outside the Park Barn Cebtre.

Derek and Sandy outside the Park Barn Centre.

The light and cosy centre is a perfect place to make a great friends. One of the best examples is the story of Sandy Griffiths and Derek Stone. She is 74 and he is 93, and both look just amazing. Despite his venerable age (he enjoyed telling me how he repaired planes during the Second World War), Derek is full of energy and has a keen interest in everything around him.

He started visiting the centre 12 years ago with his lovely wife, but who sadly passed away six years ago. Losing her was a shock to Derek, but has had Sandy’s help and support. Very soon they became the best of friends.

Derek says: “Sandy always backs me up. I am happy to have such a wonderful friend.”

The centre was not altogether unfamiliar to Sandy when she joined it. Her mother had been a member of it until her passing at the age of 97. Sandy says she was a very independent person who wanted to have her own company and always regarded the centre as a very important part of her life.

Hairdresser Margaret

Hairdresser Margaret Boyd.

There are other stories of how people have made strong bonds with the centre. The local hairdresser, Margraet Boyd, has a very personal story which connects her with it. Her mother was a user of the centre for a long time. The local day care The Four Seasons within the centre was helping her with her dementia and she loved the place. So when Margaret needed to find an extra job, she decided to work here. Her services are in high demand, since most of the centre’s visitors enjoy dressing smart and having a nice haircut.

Volunteer Derek Alfold is interviewed by Anna Valentina.

Volunteer Derek Alfold is interviewed by Anna Valentina.

Refreshments are offered throughout the day. In the cafeteria I met Derek Alford. He volunteers serving teas, coffees and snacks. He has been doing this three times a week for about seven years. According to Derek, the hot lunches also served at the centre are very important for those who find it difficult to cook every day.

He recalls that he was quite lost about what to do after his wife died. Fortunately volunteering has helped him. He found a new taste for life and has also married again.

For 16 years the Park Barn Centre has been carrying out a most important mission – helping to bring people together.

It also welcomes volunteers to support everything it does. Could you help in the kitchen, run activities, serve in the coffee shop, or do some gardening?

The Park Barn Centre, Park Barn Drive, Guildford GU2 8EN is run by Guildford Borough Council. It is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm. For more details call 01483 458055.



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