A LONG-TERM member of Tavistock Physically Challenged Group has welcomed the rejuvenation of the club after it was rescued during covid.

The small self-funded group helps people with disabiities of any kind by providing opportunities to meet socially at events and attend talks and meet just to chat, while aloso always being available to support each other.

The club was in danger of collapsing after the retirement of its chairman and Mary Brock kept it alive during the pandemic and fulfilled several committee roles for a long time.

However, after stepping down this July after a year’s notice, Mary has handed over to a new chairman after concerns the club might not be able to continue and to encourage new blood with new ideas and enthusiasm.

Lesley Friend, 77, who lives in a care home in Bere Alston, is confined to a wheelchair because she has had miltiple sclerosis for 50 years and despite the great difficulties of travelling by bus to Tavistock twice a month, she makes the effort because it is ‘very worthwhile’.

She said: “I’m so pleased and happy the club has a great future after the efforts of the committee, in particular during covid, when so many clubs folded because they could not meet and then disappeared altogether. Mary made sure she kept in contact with everyone by phone and ensured anyone needing help got it. So, when things calmed down a bit and the club was recognised as an essential service and was allowed some form of face-to-face contact, there was still a club to deal with.

“Even though I have many friends after living in the area for so long I still value the friends I have made through group and try and go to every meeting and event twice a month.

“It’s a very supportive social club and prevents me from getting institutionalised, by spending too much time here in my flat. It would be all too easy for me to think of reasons not to go twice a month because it’s so difficult to get to Tavistock in a wheelchair. I have to rely on a bus and hope it turns up on time, even in bad weather and ensure the only space dedicated to a wheelchair is free for the trip. Then I have to make sure I’m expected and looked after at each end. But the friendly welcoming environment lets me be myself. In the care home I’m well looked after and it’s a great place with many activities, but essentially I’m a number and the residents are not necessarily my friends in the same way.”

One member is a young man who is very keen for younger people to join him. Mary Brock said: “He’s grown a lot in confidence through coming to us. He didn’t go out of his parents’ house until he came to us and now comes to our meals and is now keen to live on his own. It’s so good to see members progress. We also send out birthday cards and make people feel valued. It certainly works and the woman who recruited me was still volunteering aged 92, but has sadly passed away.”

Billie Burnett at West Devon CVS provides the group with strong support and is its patron. After many searches for funding, Lloyds gave the group £1,000, and the members have been fundraising to support its activities, such as group outings. The club benefited for a time from Leonard Cheshire Disability under the West Devon Enabling Scheme, which covered travel expenses and a paid support-worker.

TPCG meets at Tavistock Area Support Services on the second Tuesday of the month and has outings on the fourth Tuesday. Volunteers can contact [email protected]