8th Day of Christmas

By Lana Jakilazek

Evergreen Care Bexley’s vision is to see older people in the community living fruitful and fulfilled lives by eradicating isolation, loneliness and vulnerability through advocacy, friendship and practical support.

Born out of the personal experiences of Diane and Peter Kot, the husband and wife team witnessed gaps in services during their work in the NHS and care sectors and felt like change was necessary. Peter told us, “We saw that whilst medical and personal needs were being met by statutory services, wider personal and social needs were being neglected – leaving older people isolated, unhealthy and vulnerable.”

To address these issues, they set up a befriending service, where volunteers are matched with elderly people in need of company. Today, Evergreen Care Bexley offer a range of services – their Home Support service provides assistance with practical tasks like cleaning, shopping, meals and well-being calls. Their Clean Team service tidies homes that have deteriorated into an unsanitary condition and also moves furniture to better utilise the space available for the resident and their gardening services offer tidying, planting and general gardening maintenance.

Over the past two years the group has expanded rapidly due to grants from The London Community Foundation totalling £13,000 that allowed them to expand their Home Support service as a paid for service and grow in a sustainable way. They have grown from four paid staff and 113 volunteers supporting 137 people in Bexley to 16 staff in the office, 25 home support workers, 10 gardeners/handymen and 135 volunteers to support 351 clients. Evergreen Care Bexley are also a living wage employer – which is a rarity in the care sector.

Despite the growth, Evergreen Care Bexley are still very much focused on the needs at a grassroots level, which allows them to respond quickly to need and has helped them grow to be respected across the borough. Peter told us: “I believe being a local charity allows us to form stronger bonds with the community we serve, and our donors see first hand the difference out work makes to the community they live.”

But being a small charity is challenging. “Seeing need that you can’t respond to due to financial constraints and capacity is a burden we carry daily,” said Peter. They do have a volunteer who is responsible for funding applications and they hope their Home Support service can continue to support them.

Nonetheless, it’s also stories like the one of Mrs R that make the work all the more rewarding. Mrs R first came to the attention of Evergreen Care Bexley when her daughter got in touch to see if they could help her mother who had been in the hospital for some time. “She was on her way to recovery but with a home in a terrible state with mice over-running the property, the hospital wouldn’t discharge her unless the home was hygienic and safe,” Peter says. He continued, “Her family tried to clear the property and were initially too embarrassed to ask for help but it was just too big a job and they turned to Evergreen.”

Taking over 64 hours, the Clean Time stripped the house, washed and disinfected everything and tidied the front of the property to make it welcoming once again. Once completed, Mrs R’s daughter took her to see her home. “The last time she had seen her home was 6 months earlier. She was nervous about visiting and had been dreading returning home. When she entered her home she was very taken back by how nice it looked and became quite tearful. We had left a welcome home card for her and when she found it she was overwhelmed with emotion according to her daughter.” Mrs R has now returned home following a transition period of weekly visits helping her to get accustomed to being on her own after such a long hospital stay.

The difference a clean home meant to Mrs R was considerable. She was able to return home after a long hospital stay, which not only helped her, but also freed up a bed in the hospital for someone else in need.