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Up to 2,400 older people living in parts of Exeter and East Devon will receive help to live full and independent lives in their own homes for longer, thanks to a grant from Devonshire Freemasons.

The £37,184 grant to The Estuary League of Friends, has funded a new Volunteer Coordinator Marilyn Spencer who will be responsible for creating 75 new volunteering opportunities for local people. It will help Estuary reach out to 1,000 more people in need over the next two years.

This new project comes at a critical time for older people living in Devon, where so many older people live out their retirement far from family and friends and are at risk of experiencing extreme loneliness especially as their health, or that of their partner, deteriorates. Devon County Council estimates that up to 57,000 people aged 65 years or more and living in the county experience loneliness or intense loneliness. That equates to around 30% of people over 65 years compared with just a fifth of the general UK population who admit to always or often feeling lonely (British Red Cross and Co-op, 2016). Meanwhile, Devon’s older than average population is growing (set to increase by 39% in the next 20 years according to Exeter City Council’s Person’s Housing Strategy, 2010-15).

Estuary’s new Volunteer Coordinator Marilyn will help combat loneliness experienced by older residents by creating meaningful volunteering opportunities, supporting local people to set up new activities that strengthen the community, and establishing new volunteer-led projects that reach out to the most vulnerable in our community.

The Estuary League of Friends was founded by volunteers in 1987, and today, its staff and 165 local volunteers provide a wide range of services and activities helping over 1,400 people resident in Exeter and East Devon to live full and independent lives.

Last year, Estuary was granted the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of community volunteering excellence. Yet, the charity has never had a staff member dedicated to supporting its volunteers. The grant from Devonshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Devon is also one of the 13 project areas across England and Wales in which the Masonic Charitable Foundation is working with Age UK in a £1 million initiative to reduce loneliness among older people.

Rachel Gilpin, Estuary’s Chief Executive said “We are absolutely delighted that Devonshire Freemasons have agreed to make a game changing investment in the way that we work. This new Volunteer Coordinator post will help us reach many more of the vulnerable older generation who are part of our community and yet whose daily existence is one of isolation and loneliness. We would encourage local people who are interested in volunteering their time to get in touch with us today, to find out more about how they can help neighbours in need.”

Dr. Reuben Ayres. Provincial Grand Charity Steward of Devonshire Freemasons said “The Freemasons of Devonshire are very pleased to be able to help the Estuary League of Friends, which does truly outstanding work helping older people overcome the loneliness and isolation that can make life thoroughly miserable. By employing Marilyn Spencer as volunteer coordinator, we will reach out and enhance the lives of many more vulnerable people and we can then feel we have had a small part in achieving something worthwhile here in Devon.”

Pictured L to R. Dr. Reuben Ayres, Marilyn Spencer, Rachel Gilpin, Andrew Leadbetter.

W. Bro. Clive Eden
Provincial Press Officer