A customer care manager in Sarisbury Green is looking forward to meeting an inspirational 90-year-old widow she has spoken with weekly during her NHS volunteering role while furloughed.
Vistry's Catherine with her Boxer, Beau
Catherine Greenham, customer care service manager at Vistry Group – which includes Linden and Bovis Homes – traded her home owner support role for calling the vulnerable during lockdown and she has been speaking to Molly, who lives on the same road.
Animal lover Molly actually ended up comforting Catherine, who was afraid her unwell 13-year-old Boxer, Beau, would have to be put down. But Beau has fully recovered, after a course of medicine, and now Catherine is planning to walk her to Molly’s house.
Catherine, who has clocked up nearly 600 hours of volunteering while furloughed, was put in touch with the nonagenarian – whose sister is now unwell, leaving her on her own – through the NHS Volunteer Responders via a mobile phone App.
Catherine, who also lives on her own but whose family and Vistry colleagues are delighted with her volunteering work, said: “I chose to be a point of contact by telephone, which came naturally due to my current role, so that I could put my communication skills to good use. I signed up for the NHS Volunteer Scheme straight away, and shortly after received my first alert.
“The App on my mobile flashes up stating someone needs my help. A message came through asking me to make contact with a lady living alone who needed some help, I called the number and introduced myself, and this is when I first spoke to Molly.
"Molly told me all about her life and how she bought her flat with the view to her sister also moving in. Unfortunately, her sister was taken ill and therefore Molly is totally isolated with no children or family nearby.
“Since that first call, although I am not obliged, we have a chat once a week to put the world to rights and I check in to confirm she is ok. It takes a fraction of time out of my day and she is so grateful for the call. We have also made plans to meet up once it is safe to do so.
“When I first called Molly and after chatting about her concern, I told her a little about myself and my animal family. At the time Beau was struggling to walk and I was scared she was going to have to be put to sleep. Molly was concerned and listened to me, which was lovely as it helped me to speak to someone about it. Luckily my beautiful dog was given some medication and has now a new lease of life. When she gets stronger, I will be walking her to the end of my road so Molly can see her.
“While I have not been able to see Molly, she told me she loves chatting and when this time has passed it would be lovely to meet. I feel grateful for the opportunity given to me to connect with a vulnerable person living alone, as I am. Lockdown has caused a lot of anxiety, however, by reaching out to another person, for that moment the world felt normal.”
Molly has been reflecting on her memories while speaking to Catherine, including life during World War II – particularly on VE Day – and her many travels. Catherine added she was grateful Vistry had encouraged her to volunteer.
“We have spoken about World War II as I called her on VE Day,” Catherine added. “Molly was 15 at the time and relived some of her memories of where she was living and how different things were back then. It is lovely to hear all the stories of her travels and where her and her husband used to live.
"She really is an inspiration. She is not as worried as I am about the lockdown, having lived through the War when there was not the infrastructure and support we have now. Each time we speak, I ensure she has everything she needs, her food is being delivered and the staff in the residential block where she lives are checking in on her too.
“Vistry has taken the whole situation very seriously and has been conscious of the need to ensure all staff and customers are safe. When developments were closed, and the customer care team became quieter, I was placed on furlough with Vistry topping up my monthly salary and encouraging me to volunteer.
“My family, friends and Vistry colleagues are delighted I have joined this scheme and made a difference to Molly’s life, if only for a short period of time. Both my parents are elderly therefore I have also called them more regularly, ordering flowers and cream teas to make things a little more cheerful.”