A community charity which helps hundreds of lonely or isolated people needs more volunteers and help from businesses for its vital work.

Aspire Creating Communities began in 2015 at St John’s Church in Birkby with groups meeting to foster a sense of community and belonging while doing fun activities. It’s expanded ever since to set up more groups in Crosland Moor, Newsome, Dalton, Almondbury and Ashbrow.

Three heart-breaking videos (links at the end of the story) capture just what Aspire means to the people who rely on the charity as their only hope to get out of their home once a week.

Aspire is now run by a team of five staff helped by 30 volunteers with more than 200 people aged over 55 now attending its meetings in their own areas.

But more volunteers are always needed and a special plea has gone out to businesses to become involved too in supporting the groups, perhaps by sponsoring them for a few sessions or even a year.

Aspire founder and CEO, occupational therapist Susanna Shotter said: “97% of our members are either over 70 years old or have health conditions that limit their access to social activities or exclude them altogether. For some, this is their only social interaction each week.”

The weekly sessions are aimed at increasing mobility, mental stimulation and promoting a more active and creative lifestyle. Sessions range from singing and gentle exercise to arts and crafts and local history and photography, as well as occasional intergenerational sessions with local school children.

Susanna added: “We have also been supporting our members through the current cost of living crisis. We offer support for our community with financial literacy, digital inclusion, budgeting advice and cost saving recipes. Each week, Aspire Creating Communities provides a minimum of 30 hours of support for our vulnerable communities and we hope to extend that to over 40 hours by the end of 2023.”

This is how funding can help Aspire:

·       £250 funds one session for 20 members

·       £695 sponsors one member to attend for 12 months

·       £833 runs one group for one month

·       £5,400 pays one outreach worker for a year

·       £10,000 can fund one local group for 12 months

The groups are lifelines for people who attend them.

One person said: “The group is like a second family, always welcomed with a cheery smile and a brew. Lots of time for a natter and a catch up even when doing the crafts. It’s great hearing life stories of other people in the group and getting to know them better. At the end of each session I feel happy and content.”

Another said: “My whole week revolves around Tuesday mornings. I wouldn’t give up going to Aspire because I have real friends there now. My friends at Aspire give me hope and a feeling of fun again.”

A third added: “Without this group I wouldn’t see anyone. We do amazing things, meet lovely people and make a lot of friends.”

Susanna added: “We are proud of what we have built in our communities but we can’t do it without our wonderful volunteers and support from local businesses and sponsors. If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can get involved please do get in touch. The current financial climate has hit us hard and we are looking for more support so we can continue to make a difference and enrich the lives of older people in our town.”

These great videos show just what Aspire means to the people who attend the groups.

For more information on Aspire go to its website at https://www.aspirecreatingcommunities.org.uk/, phone 07542 771518 or email enquiries@aspirecreatingcommunities.org.uk

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.