Is it on the trolley? volunteering with AVSED

AVSED volunteers in the kitchen

AVSED volunteers in the kitchen

Being a lady of leisure or one who ‘lunched’ (even if it was a packed one I’d made!), has been something that I aspire to in my retirement. It’s fair to say that I work hard, play hard and fulfil my family obligations, and so it feels right that I deserve some ‘me’ time.   But it’s not to be. A life of leisure may be a bit further away than I’d anticipated as I’ve been inspired by the many volunteers who take on a variety of roles such as drivers, cooks and befrienders. Now my spare time might not be so spare after all because I’ve been for a coffee with AVSED and now the lunching has been replaced by volunteering. If I’m lucky though, I may just be able to combine both 

Coffee and company

Coffee and company

AVSED (Aireborough Voluntary Services) is an independent Registered Charity founded in Yeadon, Leeds in 1992 and shows how working in the community can work for the community. AVSED’s management committee is made up of volunteers, who give hundreds of hours of their time each week to members. This Neighbourhood Network is for anyone over sixty living independently at home in Aireborough, Yeadon, Rawdon and Guiseley. 

Although it requires a lot of organisation, AVSED provides almost 200 places per week for people doing different activities, helping people get out and about, and yet it’s also very relaxed, informal and just about having fun and some companionship. There are opportunities to socialise, take exercise and learn new skills and signposting people towards services that offer advice and support on how to keep their independence. 

Currently, there are over 450 members, some who are very active and lively and some who have various levels of disability, from hearing impairments to severe arthritis, depression and wheelchair dependence. The activities centre on the members’ needs and ensure that, with support, encouragement and caring, an independent life can carry on. 

All clients pay an annual membership subscription to receive services from AVSED, and all volunteers and clients become members of the organisation. The subscription for one person is £15 and £20 for two people residing at the same residence. 

Today we are focusing on the ‘Cuppa and Company coffee morning’, which meets each Thursday in Guiseley from 10.00 am to 11.30 am. People get there under their own steam or are brought by their carers or in the AVSED minibus.           

The group was started in May 2013 by Fleur Mitchell, one of the members of staff. The members have informal chats, play dominoes and take on craft projects and music quizzes. Tina, who is a personal assistant to Aaron, another of the volunteers, is a professional masseuse/physical therapist and offers touch therapy in the form of hand massages. Tea, coffee and refreshments are provided by the volunteers and visitors can join the fun or just enjoy a quiet chat.

Barbara taking a rest from knitting

Barbara taking a rest from knitting

One of the volunteers, Jill, introduces me to Barbara, (84) a most accomplished craftswoman who creates beautiful knitted dolls to be sold or raffled in aid of AVSED. Barbara also encourages other members of the group to knit special tiny hats suitable for use at the premature baby unit.

Hazel, (65) has learning difficulties and lives in a supported living house. Her care worker brought her along, but now she is happy to come to the group by herself. She likes craft activities and is sewing a cardigan. Cuppa and Company provides her with the chance to get out and about a bit and chat with people who are now her friends.

 Hilary Pank, an ex-teacher and now an AVSED volunteer for five years, volunteered after her retirement when she was introduced by a friend. She gives me some background on other members of the group.

 Gracie (83), who is nearly blind, and her partner, Ronnie (83), joined the group for social reasons. It gives them both the chance to chat with other people, and Ronnie enjoys meeting up with his “men’s group” buddies. Gracie, who has arthritis in her hands, appreciates Tina’s touch therapy sessions.

 Ron (79) and a widower, was originally encouraged to attend by his daughter and was a bit shy to begin with but he is now a very enthusiastic member of the group. 

Kaj and Val

Kaj and Val

Kaj (70), is in a wheelchair due to a stroke, he has no movement down his left-side and also has some attention problems. He loves attending the group with his wife, Val, (71). Val, herself a stroke-survivor, says all the activities are “a lifesaver”. He also attends the Osmondthorpe Day Centre for ceramics sessions.

 Recently married and just turned 40, Aaron survived a major car crash seven years ago and is a volunteer who in turn is supported by his personal assistant, Tina. His participation in the group is part of his weekly timetable of activities. He offers me a strong cup of tea which was welcomed!

The noisy dominoes game

The noisy dominoes game

All the time I was chatting to Hilary and enjoying a cuppa, in the background I could hear Kaj, Ron, Ronnie, Aaron and Hilary playing the liveliest, noisiest game of dominoes ever seen. It’s so noisy that the table has to be covered with a sheet to try and muffle the sounds when the dominoes are shuffled or a player ‘knocks’ so as not to disturb the other group members!

 At the end of the morning all the cups are taken to be washed, the dominoes are tidied away and the craft activities are put to one side until the following week. People wait for their transport. Everyone is cheerful and happy. As Val says, “It’s a good group full of fantastic people keen to help out.”

 Other social activities include chair-based exercise classes; Tai Chi; trips out on Mondays; memory loss prompting service; health and wellbeing support; a handyman service; accessible transport to most of the activities; personal one to one shopping trips (non- grocery); one to one appointment support (non- hospital); carer support; advocacy; referrals / signposting to other agencies; mobility aid loan; fitting of smoke alarms and CO detectors and quarterly supported day trips using the fully-accessible ‘Windmill’ Coach. For those members who do not regularly socialise and are housebound, there is also a befriending service. 

If you would like to know more about volunteering, joining as a member, or for any other reason, telephone (0113) 250 1702 or email on

 To find out more about AVSED, click here

To find out about Neighbourhood Networks in your area, click here:

 Debra Kerr

About betterlivesleeds

Health, social and age-related care services working together to make Leeds the best city for health and wellbeing
This entry was posted in Active ageing, Carers, Choice, Health and Wellbeing, Independence, older people, Transforming care services, volunteering and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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