We all remember the early days of the pandemic in March 2020. Lockdown was in place. We talked to each other electronically or standing apart in the open air. We waved at each other through windows.
It was just the same for Jamie, who lives in Greater Manchester, supported by his MacIntyre staff team.
Helping the community
Jamie wanted to do something in the community, and started volunteering to help his neighbours, collecting their newspapers at the local shop, picking up bread and milk.
That’s when he got to know Sandra, who lives across the street. She would stand at her gate and have a chat when Jamie delivered her daily paper or got her some milk.
Sharing gardening tips
Their friendship developed when Jamie started working on his garden. The pandemic did not seem like ending any time soon, so Jamie’s staff began helping Jamie in the garden. They were in the open air and the work helped everyone stay healthy.
It turned out Sandra is a keen gardener too. She would offer advice from her gate and when she ordered plants for her garden, she would order a few extra and give them to Jamie in exchange for him running errands. She also offered advice on which plants were best for which areas.
Marley the Labrador
Then Jamie’s dog Marley entered the picture. Jamie and his staff learned that Sandra used to rescue Labrador dogs but was unable to continue when she moved to her sheltered housing flat, due to the space and her health deteriorating. Sandra really missed this work and enjoyed the connection with Marley.
A coffee club grows
As time went on the daily chats continued and as restrictions were reduced, Jamie invited Sandra to come and sit in his garden and have a coffee. The relationship between Jamie, his staff, and Sandra blossomed and firm friendships grew.
They began to include Lillian, an elderly lady who lived down the street and walked past every day. Jamie would say hi, they would chat. Lilian shared she had been very lonely over recent months so Jamie asked if she wanted to have a coffee with himself, his staff and Sandra.
As they got to know her, Lilian explained she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She did not have any children so the group really helped her, even though she joked about not remembering any one’s name the next day.
Dog walking together
Then one day Sandra told Jamie about the dog walkers who met up on the local park daily to walk their dogs and chat. She suggested she and Jamie should take Marley along, so this became a regular part of their day.
They met Julie, who also lived on the street. She was planning to go and visit her son in Scotland for a few days and was fretting about putting her dog in kennels. Jamie suggested that he could look after her dog for a few days, and as it would be company for Marley. Julie was delighted and offered to return the favour when Jamie was going away later in the year.
The pandemic came and went, the friendships formed and strengthened.
The present day
Let’s move forward to the present day. Jamie goes to Sandra’s every other Sunday afternoon for a catch up and a coffee. Every other Thursday, Sandra comes for a coffee to Jamie’s with Lillian. Once a month on a Sunday Lillian comes for a roast dinner and Jamie’s staff us this opportunity to check if she is alright and managing.
Dog watching for each other is a regular thing, taking in parcels, doing errands for each other and looking out for each other has become just a natural part of everyday life on their street.
It’s a lovely feeling to know that someone is there if I need anything or just to have a chat
So the pandemic, which threatened to isolate everyone, actually brought this little group of people together to form their own neighbourhood community, all of which grew from Jamie’s volunteering.