Good Morning Newtownabbey providing ‘lifeline’ for vulnerable people

Members of the Good Morning Newtownabbey team; Diane Irvine, Eddie Judson, Anne Judson, Dorothy Leeman and Andrea Sobey. INNT 09-802CON
Members of the Good Morning Newtownabbey team; Diane Irvine, Eddie Judson, Anne Judson, Dorothy Leeman and Andrea Sobey. INNT 09-802CON

Users of a Monkstown-based group, which offers a friendly voice in the morning to vulnerable and elderly residents, say it is providing a ‘lifeline.’

The Times called in to see the vital work being carried out by the volunteers at Good Morning Newtownabbey in the Monkstown Jubilee Centre.

The service, which was founded in the area as ‘Good Morning Monkstown’ in January 2006, is part of a network of Good Morning teams across Northern Ireland.

It phones vulnerable and elderly members of the community in a prearranged call. The volunteers at the Monkstown-based service chat to the clients on a range of topics and provide them with details about events which are taking place in the area. They are a listening ear to the issues affecting the person’s life and sometimes the only contact that the person will have that day. There is also an alert service in place, should the person fail to answer the call.

The cross-community service covers the whole of the Newtownabbey area, from the rural villages outside of Ballyclare through to the tip of north Belfast.

Eddie Judson coordinates the phone service for the Newtownabbey area.

He said: “We currently have over 200 clients on our database, who we call every week. We never turn anyone down and are always happy to add new members to the database. Some of the clients receive a call every weekday morning, some are called on a number of mornings and some only receive one call a week. It just depends on how many times they would like to be called. We have a team of 12 volunteers who operate the phones, with usually four covering each morning.”

The volunteers arrive at the Jubilee Centre at 8.30am and make their first call at 8.45am. They will be on the phone constantly until 1.30pm most days.

The service receives funding from Fourteen, a programme which supports 14 communities across the United Kingdom with the aim of tackling disadvantage and improving wellbeing.

Eddie’s wife Anne was a founding member of the Monkstown-based team. She is grateful for the funding from Fourteen, which will continue until 2018.

She said: “Without the funding and support from Fourteen, we would have lost 60 clients, who would then have missed out on the service, which many describe as a life line.”

The group is also funded by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, the Policing and Community Safety Partnership and the Health Board. It has a protocol with the PSNI and the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

The team not only offers the phone service, but also provides a social outlet for the users. Throughout the year the group organises social networking events for the clients, giving them the opportunity to interact with other people.

Anne explained: “We try to organise at least four networking events during the year, with the Christmas dinner being one of the highlights. In December we had 105 members join together in the centre to enjoy a festive meal and a bit of company. Some of the members might not have anyone to spend Christmas Day with, so the meal we organise is very important. We also run trips up to the north coast and the Giant’s Causeway. The members really enjoy these social activities and look forward to them. Over the years friendships have been forged between ourselves and the users of the service and I get a great sense of satisfaction knowing that we are helping the people who need it most in our community.”

Andrea Sobey volunteers at the service. She said: “The service that Good Morning Newtownabbey provides is very worthwhile. You get to know the people you are calling over time and we look forward to talking to them. Sometimes we might be the only person that they hear from all day, so it is a vital service and I am glad to be a part of it.”

If you or someone you know in the Newtownabbey area would benefit from using the service, contact the team for more information on 02890 867686 or call Monkstown Jubilee Centre on 02890 866385.

Check out the Monkstown Jubilee Centre Facebook page for news and events which are taking place at the centre.