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Jewish Care’s Supportive Tea Parties which switched to home delivered cake and parties over Zoom during coronavirus wins Mayor of Redbridge’s Community Award

PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 September 2020

Jewish Care's Supportive Tea Parties has won the Caring for Others award from the Redbridge Mayor's Community Awards. Picture: Jewish Care

Jewish Care's Supportive Tea Parties has won the Caring for Others award from the Redbridge Mayor's Community Awards. Picture: Jewish Care

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Jewish Care’s Redbridge Supportive Communities Tea Parties has been awarded the Caring For Others Award in this year’s Redbridge Mayor’s Community Awards.

The tea parties have been running since 2011 and after the pandemic hit they switched to Zoom parties and home delivered cake. Picture: Jewish CareThe tea parties have been running since 2011 and after the pandemic hit they switched to Zoom parties and home delivered cake. Picture: Jewish Care

Redbridge Tea Parties have been running for six years helping isolated, elderly members of the community - offering them the opportunity to socialise, make friends and feel part of the community.

This proactive group of volunteer coordinators, hosts and drivers have remained committed, visiting guests who are unwell and helping in other ways if needed.

Before Covid-19, the monthly gatherings were hosted by volunteers in their living room, providing an opportunity for people to connect with others at the tea parties.

Now that the volunteers can’t host their guests, the tea parties take place on Zoom and the hosts send cake to their guests through volunteer delivery drivers who drop by with cake to say hello.

Before the pandemic the tea parties were in person such as this one in October 2019 with Alf Collis celebrating his 100th birthday with Valerie Marks. Picture: Jewish CareBefore the pandemic the tea parties were in person such as this one in October 2019 with Alf Collis celebrating his 100th birthday with Valerie Marks. Picture: Jewish Care

The hosts and drivers also call the clients every week, if not more, to check if there’s anything they need in between the tea parties so that they feel connected and supported.

Since the tea parties began in 2011 there were nine groups and this has now expanded to 22 across London.

Jewish Care’s head of community engagement and volunteers, Richard Shone, said; “The Supportive Communities Tea Parties bring people together in a natural way in a comfortable and safe environment and our volunteers have been incredible by opening their homes and being hosts, as have the drivers, in creating friendships with the guests and making sure they are able to socialise.

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“The telephone calls and contact that the clients receive from our volunteers can sometimes be the only time they speak to people, either once a week or once a month and the last few months have highlighted how important it is for people in our community to stay connected.”

Jewish Care’s Redbridge Supportive Communities coordinator, Valerie Marks, who has been organising the Redbridge tea parties with Sally Caplan, said: “The things I’ve missed most is having people in the house, putting nice things out for the teas and sharing nice cakes but we’re still baking for the Zoom Tea Parties.

“Everyone we’ve met from the clients to the other volunteers and drivers are all lovely people and it’s a pleasure and privilege to do this and we really enjoy it.”

Tea party guests were delighted to hear the good news of winning the Caring For Others award.

Hazel Isaacs, who has been coming to the tea party for about a year, commented: “All the volunteers are fantastic and they all give 100 per cent and they are all brilliant.”

Shirley Greenbaum agreed and said: “When I was more mobile I also volunteered and did things for the synagogue and all of a sudden I wasn’t able to do that anymore. So, it really is appreciated.”

Volunteer driver, Janet Best, also commented: “It is an absolute pleasure and honour to do it because everyone is so lovely. It’s so nice to do something for somebody else.”

Jewish Care’s Alison Smardina, who coordinates the tea parties, said: “Before lockdown, coordinators worked tirelessly, ensuring hosts are appointed, drivers allocated, and guests invited, they regularly spoke to guests ensuring they could attend the teas and had transport. These calls are not just a five-minute conversation more often a longer chat and catch up.

“Since lockdown, the volunteers have shown they really can keep going the extra mile. Guests who enjoyed being in such a warm friendly environment have been able to see each other virtually and the drivers and hosts have got to know each other very well, so that our guests have a sense of friendship and community. “I always know the guests are really looked after and our volunteers are in touch with them. It’s not just a chat and making contact but also if they are feeling down, they know they are able to reach out. If they need anything, Jewish Care are there to support older people in our community.”


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