Redbourn is known to be a friendly village. Its beautiful rural surroundings, its spacious common, historic High Street, thriving church communities and active social life all make for creating an attractive place to live. Added to this, a highly-rated primary school, excellent nearby secondary schools, and first-rate access to motorways, stations and airports make it a wonderful place for young families as well as older people whose families have flown the nest.
Cricket on the Common, good pubs, a lovely old Norman church, the Chilterns nearby, not to mention St Albans down the road and London a short journey away. We are lucky to live here. And yes, it IS a friendly place. Nevertheless, not everyone in the village is leading a full and happy life. There are those of all ages who have been struck down by illness – stroke, cancer, heart problems – or have been physically disabled by disease or accident. Others are wrestling with poverty, frailty from old age, or are afflicted by loneliness.
Many of you will have seen the Redbourn Care Group minibus busy around the village most days of the week. Driven by a team of volunteers, the minibus provides a lifeline to local people for shopping trips, social outings, post-illness rehabilitation sessions and any manner of activities that alleviate need or loneliness. For a reasonable donation, the minibus is also loaned to organisations in the village, for example, Woollams, Redbourn Singers events, U3A, group or family socials and more.
But the minibus is only the tip of the iceberg. What is far less visible are the hundreds of trips to the hospital, surgery, and dental appointments made every year, not only in the immediate area of the village but to London and other more distant hospitals. These journeys are carried out by around 50 villagers in their own cars, who give up their time to help neighbours needing support. These drivers, and the minibus drivers and their “couriers” on board, are backed up by other volunteers in the Care Office at the Village Hall. Volunteers also look after the minibus routine maintenance, manage our small pool of wheelchairs and scooters lent to those that need them.
Run by villagers for villagers…ensuring that Redbourn’s reputation as a friendly, caring, good neighbourly place has real substance. But it does not stop there. Working in hand with local schools, the Care Group has given help to Redbourn children, contributed special equipment needs for young and old, contributed a large sum to help refurbish the playground on the Common and made grants for work at the Moor, at Woollams and St Mary’s transept for the Redbourn Day Centre.
Although the Care Group volunteers do not provide at-home care assistance, the objective of the charity and its members is to be a good neighbour to anyone in Redbourn who needs help, whatever their age or creed, with our time and – when necessary – with our funds.
Volunteers are ready to help in response to a phone call to the Care Group from a villager who needs a helping hand.
Redbourn Care Group draws generous financial help from the Parish Council, local bodies and many individual contributions and bequests.
There are no paid officers or helpers apart from the part-time Office Manager.
A measure of the Care Group’s success was marked by its being awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award in 2003. This award is of nationwide significance, celebrating the importance of voluntary workers contributions to the well-being of their communities.
Peter Fox, “Podge” to all his many friends is a local hero. Born and raised in the village, he is one of a dying breed of genuine locals who have a passionate love for Redbourn. They know the village and its old families in intimate detail and are an endless source of stories about village life.
Another is Dennis Bigham, a Parish Councillor and being an ex-professional soldier, a man of action, a stalwart of the Care Group and the Village Hall. But enough about Dennis, he is larger than life without any help from this correspondent.
Podge and friends began giving lifts to people in the village who for one reason or another couldn’t get about themselves. This spread to include a wider number of drivers and “clients”, and in 1980 they decided to establish Redbourn Care Group as a social self-help organisation which later became a Registered Charity in 1987. All these years later, the Care Group has grown ever bigger and is thriving.
Now Life President of the Charity, Podge is still engaged in the Care Group, and his wisdom and warmth are woven into the very fabric of the organisation. The twinkle in the eye and the mischievous smile suggests that big-hearted Podge is a lot more than a do-gooder, but the secrets of his youthful past are tightly guarded by his old mates.
We owe the Care Group to Podge and his friends. He has well deserved the award of the MBE in 1999 that honoured his achievements for the benefit of Redbourn.