Community projects

Jingle and Mingle event creates festive fun for all!

On Wednesday 18th December around 40 guests enjoyed a delicious Christmas lunch together at Barton Manor. The first Christmas party for socially isolated older people, organised by Rouse Limited and Age UK IW, was a roaring success.

As well as the traditional Christmas lunch, provided by the Isle of Wight College catering and hospitality students, guests enjoyed entertainment, a raffle and a surprise visit from Father Christmas and his elves! Each guest was given a hand-knitted stocking stuffed with treats.

Businesses and individuals across the Island, and beyond, responded to the call for support for this event and Rouse Limited and Age UK IW would like to give their heartfelt thanks to:

  • Alex and Dawn Haig-Thomas of Barton Manor (for the venue and all dining equipment)
  • Waitrose East Cowes (for the proceeds from the ‘green token’ box)
  • Gurnard Knit and Natter group (the Christmas stockings)
  • The Isle of Wight College catering and hospitality students (delicious food and excellent service)
  • Queensgate Primary School (beautiful carol singing)
  • Cowes Enterprise College’s ukulele band (excellent and joyful ukulele playing and singing)
  • IW Donkey Sanctuary (two donkeys – Joseph and Merlin – to greet guests on arrival)
  • the generous anonymous individual (donation)
  • Proper Vintage IOW (decorations for the room and tables)
  • J&K Floral Designs (floral Christmas decorations)
  • Island charity, Independent Arts, and their SingAbout group (for leading the carols singing)
  • Grace’s Bakery (delicious biscuits as gifts)
  • Asda (After Eight Mints)
  • Morrisons (Prosecco)
  • Iceland (soft drinks)
  • DC Derata Property (donation)
  • Orchard House, Care Centre (baubles and decorations)
  • Event, the party shop in Newport (110 balloons and gold thread)
  • Gordy’s Wood (personalised snowmen)
  • Age UK IW volunteers (transporting clients to and from the venue)
  • Adil (taxi driver: 30 cabs)
  • Ian at Super Taxi (taxi driver)
  • Bretta at iCab (taxi driver)
  • Graham Pearce (taxi driver)
  • Jane (Medical support)

Organiser Alex Pugh, of Rouse Limited said: ‘I feel very humbled by the generosity of all the individuals and organisations whose help and support made Jingle and Mingle a huge success. Giving back is the very essence of Christmas and, for me, there is no greater present than to make people smile.’

It was a success in itself to get so many socially isolated people to accept the invitation and although some felt too anxious to attend, Age UK IW sees it as a huge success and a step forward in raising awareness of the issue of social isolation, which can be a problem for anyone of any age.

Maria Bunce, of Age UK IW said: ‘Loneliness is high profile news at the moment and the timing of this event has been perfect; I hope it will raise awareness here on the island. Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, which can have a serious effect on their health and wellbeing. Our charity supports older Islanders to help them enjoy their later life and we are aware that so many Islanders are extremely isolated with often only a television for company.

‘We were delighted when Rouse approached us with the idea of running this event as part of their social commitment responsibilities. But events like these are just the start. Everyone has a life story and their current situation should not define who they are. From the lady who lost her husband four years ago who said the party had made her smile and enjoy Christmas, to the gentleman, recently out of hospital, who loved the party but cried when he had to go back to his empty house, this event highlights where our work needs to be done and how much we must do. We were able to comfort the gentleman, and his kind volunteer driver stayed with him and settled him for the night and we are already looking out for a volunteer to support him in the new year, as he sees no one.

Events like this can have such a positive impact on health and wellbeing – for everyone involved. I know that everyone who supported the event yesterday feels like they have taken part in something amazing and have touched the lives of some of the loneliest older islanders. The party is a starting point but we need to help socially isolated people throughout the year.

‘The Age UK IW volunteering project is currently funded by the National Lottery but the funding ends in March 2020. We are now looking for future funding so we can continue to support the Island’s older isolated residents. We would love to hear from you if you can help us with this project in any way. Please contact me at maria.bunce@ageukiw.org.uk

It’s hoped that this initiative can be extended to target other groups, such as young carers, by initially arranging an event for them at Christmas or even at another time in the year. If you have any suggestions or can offer a venue, or support in any way to help this initiative progress, please contact Lisa Butler at lisa.butler@rouseltd.co.uk

All photography courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press.