The Charlton Kings Senior Citizens’ Welfare committee has been helping the elderly of Charlton Kings for over 60 years, and the following history was compiled by Don Sherwell from the Committee’s minutes to mark its Diamond Jubilee.The Committee celebrated the 60th year of its existence in December 2007. Since 1947, its activities and functions have altered and developed as needs and circumstances have changed, but it continues to play a valuable role in the life of the village. The story began with a meeting in December 1947 between Miss Merry, County Secretary of the Old People’s Welfare Movement [founded 1940], and a group of local ladies, clergy and Mr Gilbert Ward, to discuss setting up a branch in Charlton Kings, primarily to organise a club for the over-sixties in the village. This was enthusiastically agreed, and local clergy and organisations such as the Salvation Army, Mothers’ Union, Women’s Own, Co-operative Women’s Guild, Brotherhood, Sisterhood, Girls’ Friendly Society and also the District Nursing and Health Visitor, were invited to join. Later, the Committee was expanded to include representatives of the WVS, Women’s Catholic Guild, Townswomen’s Guild, the Labour Party, [it was decided in 1963 not to have political representation] and the superintendents of East Court and Grevill House homes for the elderly.
To raise interest in the formation of a club for the elderly, invitations to a party in February 1948 were issued. Around 320 people attended, where they were entertained by a conjuror, the Salvation Army troupe of dancers, the Stonehouse Old People’s Choir, and community singing. This being in the period of rationing, Committee members were asked to give up their sweet rations as well as provide other foodstuffs for the occasion.
The founding of the Happy Circle Club in Charlton Kings followed the next month. In 1949 it had 190 members. [There was a breakaway in 1950 when a SixWays Club was set up which lasted until 1992]. Long before Charlton Kings had a library of its own, Happy Circle had a collection of books to lend. In 1952 forty members, subsidised by the Committee, went on holiday to Paignton, the first of many such holidays across the country. Happy Circle was running a successful Thrift Club in the early sixties, and was enabled to sell certain foodstuffs at greatly reduced prices.
For many years, the Committee’s activities were many and various. It became both a forum for discussing matters relating to the welfare of the elderly, and a focus for providing direct help to them.
A priority of the Committee throughout its history has been concern for the housebound and lonely. In 1952, for example, cards were issued for the elderly to put in their windows if they needed help urgently. In the same year, and at various times in later years, with the help of clergy and health visitors, a list of all the elderly in the village known to be living alone was drawn up, to seek to ensure that people in most need were visited, by Committee members or ‘professionals’, [including the Gas Board so its staff could make free 6-monthly checks of appliances]. At one time, there were 7 area teams of visitors, and local schools were sometimes active in helping as part of their social work programmes.
A surprisingly-major aspect of the Committee’s work for nearly 30 years relates to the provision of chiropody to the elderly. The local Medical Officer of Health originally arranged for a chiropodist to visit Charlton Kings for one half-day per week. Grants were made to help furnish a room, and pay for the travelling costs of staff. By 1981, the local clinic had 420 patients, the largest in the county, with 9 receptionists and 4 drivers, all volunteers. In that year, the service became part of the NHS, with a paid organiser, and provision was moved to Delancey Hospital.
From 1957, the Charlton Kings Committee paid the Cheltenham Committee to provide meals on wheels to local residents [subsequently grants for this purpose were available from local authorities]. Numbers at first were very small, and so Cheltenham Committee quickly decided not to continue coming to the village. It had not reckoned with the fact that all but one of its drivers came from Charlton Kings, who rebelled against the decision, so, ‘having had a pistol put to their heads’, the Committee even more quickly changed its mind.
The desirability of opening a luncheon club was first mooted in 1974, when it was made clear that the Meals on Wheels service could not expand to meet the growing need for them. Three years later, a lunch club was opened on Baptist Church premises on Thursdays, which continues to this day. At first, meals came in from kitchens in Cheltenham, but complaints about their quality led to them being provided on site.
At various times, the Committee has provided money as well as personnel to help this work. In 1977 also, a halfday centre was opened for the housebound at the Baptist Church: this continued for 23 years, when, unfortunately, it had to close because of a shortage of volunteers.
Still on the subject of food, in 1987 the Committee was responsible for distributing some 1.75 tons of EEC cheese or butter to Old People’s Homes and clubs as well as to individual pensioners in the village.
The Committee also used to run a Christmas voucher scheme for hard-up pensioners, and distribute heating allowances. These were largely overtaken by Government initiatives. For a period around 1980 the Committee bought a fairly substantial amount of equipment [such as wheelchairs, armchairs and zimmers] to be lent to the elderly, or given for use in local clubs. At different times the Committee discussed, and successfully followed up, such matters as road safety, and the provision of bus services [and reduced fares for pensioners]. In sheltered housing schemes in the village, the lack of wardens, cleaning, telephones and washing machines, even the effects of decomposing rats and drunken residents, came to the Committee for its consideration.
The purchase of a minibus was first suggested in 1981, and, with the help of a grant from the Coopers Trust, a secondhand vehicle came into use in 1982. In 1984 this was carrying passengers to the Tuesday and Thursday lunch clubs, the Happy Circle and Sixways clubs – and to the swimming baths. Later, transport was also provided to a Library Club, and to the Harper Clinic, which ran from 1992 until 2006. Fortnightly shopping trips to supermarkets began in 1995, the year the Committee gained charitable status. The current minibus was bought in 2014.
Recent new initiatives include the offer of a free service relating to home security and personal safety; escorting a small group of elderly people on a short holiday in UK organised by a coach company in spring; running a themed ‘Holiday at Home’ in St Mary’s Parish Centre for two days in summer; and producing a Christmas carol service and tea every December.
In the early years, money was raised largely through jumble sales, whist drives, donations and a biennial house-to-house collection. Later, generous grants were made by several organisations such as Cooper’s Charity and the Charlton Kings Relief in Need Committee. The Borough Council used to subsidise the fares paid by minibus users, and later made a grant to cover the abolition of fares for journeys within Cheltenham. Other grants came from the County and a charitable trust. Donations play a valuable part in the Committee’s fundraising, and with the cessation of most of these grants since 2010 passengers are now asked for a minimal contribution. There are no paid employees, and approximately 30 volunteers help to run the service.
CHAIRMEN of the COMMITTEE
1947-49: CR MRS MH CANNELL
1949-50, 1954-55 and 1958-62: CR HUCKFIELD
1950-54: GILBERT WARD
1955-58: LT COL EAGAR
1962-65: REV R DEAKIN
1965-77: CYRIL F TAYLOR
1977-81: GLJ WEAVER
1981-88: CR VIC STANTON
1988-2000: JOHN RAY
2000-07: DOUGLAS MASLING
2007-: MARTYN FRY