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Lynne Misner watches on as mayor of Watford Peter Taylor cuts a special cake at yesterday’s reception. Picture: Anthony Matthews
A charity which aims to reduce loneliness and isolation among older people is expanding into a neighbouring county and seeking a permanent home to help it continue its valuable work in the future.
Volunteers and supporters of Small Acts of Kindness came together in Watford on Tuesday to celebrate it receiving The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can get in the UK.
Since it was founded by chief executive Lynne Misner six years ago, the charity has distributed 60,000 gift bags to elderly people throughout Hertfordshire and boasts an army of more than 300 community volunteers.
Older people in Bedfordshire are now set to benefit from the charity’s work after it successfully applied for funding from the Fore Trust, a London institution that works with small charities and social enterprises innovating across all sectors.
“Our core function will never, ever change,” Lynne told the Watford Observer. “We are here to serve Hertfordshire and we have got 60 pallets of stock and hundreds of volunteers who have already signed up to put those into bags and get them out, but we know – and we’ve been asked time and time again – other parts of the country recognise this [isolation among older people] is a challenge and want to try and overcome it as well.
“We’ve been awarded funding to begin working in Bedfordshire. We’re looking to employ a community manager who will us develop the networks and set up a small hub in Bedfordshire where we can pack using the same model that we have here.”
Small Acts of Kindness is “ambitious” but Lynne recognises that assembling its Warm in Winter bags would be very difficult without a building to base its operation.
She said: “We’ve always been very thankful to the kindness of organisations who let us use space. We’ve been here on Croxley Park for 10 months, we’ve got a short-term lease on a building on the other side of Watford [in Greycaine Road], but I think what it’s made us realise is how fragile what we do could be if we didn’t have a base.
“We have very ambitious plans to grow, it makes sense that we have a home of our own so within the next year we’d like to secure funding to either rent somewhere for a five to ten-year period or if we were really lucky to buy somewhere and have a building of our own.”
Asked how she reflects on winning the award and the journey over the past six years, Lynne responded: “What the award process gave us the opportunity to do was to really think about what we are doing, why we do it and how we do it. When there are quiet moments that has been a really useful process.
“When we get the feedback cards from the gift bags, having an opportunity to sit and read those – and I read every single card that comes back – it gives you a real connection.
“When you grow so rapidly as we have, it’s really easy not to think of people as individuals because there are so many, but that connection makes you think about the impact a small piece of kindness has on other people and what a difference you can make.”
To contact Small Acts of Kindness, call 01923 372717 or email email@example.com
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