Football Never Went Away

EFL Clubs and their respective Club Community Organisations (CCOs) have always been, and remain, at the heart of their communities, and their importance to the daily lives of so many people cannot be underestimated. That has been reflected in the outstanding collective efforts that have been made in supporting the response to coronavirus so far.

In the midst of the unprecedented and, quite clearly, challenging set of circumstances brought about by the outbreak of COVID-19, Clubs came together to collectively show that even when there are no fixtures, Football remains at the heart of the community and never went away.

With 36.6million people in England and Wales living within a 10-mile radius of an EFL Club – a radius that encompasses four in 10 residents who fall into the most-deprived population groups – never has this work been more important.

Club Community Organisations were quick to co-ordinate activities with their local authorities, with vulnerable community members and safety at the forefront of their thinking and response.

Over 215,000 food parcels have been delivered across the network, including an extra 26,000 Easter eggs and treats to NHS staff and vulnerable adults and children. As one-to-one contact moved online or via telephone, over 120,000 calls were made with fans, the elderly or vulnerable by EFL Clubs.

And as the Government called on the public to ease the burden on the National Health Service, at least 30 Clubs opened their doors to key workers, offering space and facilities in stadia for testing and accommodation. In addition, Clubs have delivered over 13,000 items of PPE equipment and 3,500 prescriptions.

In the absence of fixtures and training sessions, football’s players put their role-model status to good use, and made an incredible impact in their respective local communities. Instead of delivering goals, some delivered food parcels, while others made vital phone calls instead of tackles, all for the benefit of those most vulnerable members of society.

And, as the nationwide lockdown was extended, the CCO network adapted to ensure people could remain healthy, active and connected.

EFL Clubs and CCOs are delivering outstanding work across the country every hour of every day and will continue to do so. They are also providing a significant service to their local authorities, many of whom turned to their Clubs in the early weeks of the pandemic. Alongside this, the Clubs and charities are finding innovative new ways to fund raise to support their fans, councils and local charities. The adaptation of our CCOs has been phenomenal and will continue to evolve to meet the needs of our EFL communities. From the outset of our response, the safety of our communities and our Clubs has remained paramount and adherence to Government advice has been at the heart of our delivery.

Extra Time Hubs Not Isolated during Isolation

“Suddenly not being able to be involved with the group could have had a big impact on their well-being or mental health.”

To conclude Loneliness Awareness Week and the one year anniversary of our Extra Time Hubs, we take a look at how our Club Community Organisations have continued to provide support to a vulnerable section of society throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent study from the Office National Statistics (ONS) showed that 2.6 million adults reported that they felt lonely often and 7.4 million adults reported their well-being had been affected through their having felt lonely in the past seven days.  Funded with the support of Sport England’s Active Ageing fund from the National Lottery, hundreds of people have joined the Extra Time hubs which are run at 11 EFL Clubs. For people like Tony, who attends Derby County’s Extra Time Hubs, they have helped forge new friendship and combat loneliness. 

Tony says: “My life is now full of activity and I now have more friends than I have ever had before. The support and camaraderie of the friends I have met through the Hubs has been vitally important in giving me and others in the group back our self-esteem and confidence.”

However as Tony explains the COVID-19 restrictions suddenly meant that the groups could no longer meet in person and threatened the new found friendships.

He added: “I can’t believe how much my life has turned around and I wanted to make sure that even if we can’t meet physically, we didn’t lose what we’ve got.”

Andy who attends Bolton’s Hub felt the same, he says: “As members rely on the weekly routine attending and meeting the group, I feel that suddenly not being able to be involved with the group could have had a big impact on their well-being or mental health.”  

However as Andy outlines Bolton Wanderers were quick to act, “The Wanderers staff saw straight away the need to seek ways of keeping everyone connected. They arranged for contact to continue by the way of a simple telephone call or a text message. Then they created a WhatsApp group for its members and then a Zoom group for meetings and general communication giving the Extra Time group an opportunity to be involved on line.”

This process was repeated across all the Hubs with Clubs and CCOs also making doorstep visits to check in on community members across the country.  

Working with the team at Derby County’s Community Trust (DCCT), Tony has been instrumental in ensuring that all Hub members stay connected. 

Luke Wilkinson, DCCT’s Extra Time Hub Coordinator, says: “Since moving our Extra Time Hubs online in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, initial worries about the accessibility of technology and ensuring all our members were able to keep in touch with ourselves and each other were helped by Tony’s input. He talked other members through the process of getting involved and since then, we haven’t had less than 30 individuals and couples at each weekly session going virtual. At this week’s session we had 45 households on the call!”

Tony explains: “There was a point in my mid-sixties when I found myself living alone and was, at times, very lonely. It was then that I realised how important social media was in staying connected. Having had this experience, when lockdown became inevitable I wanted to try to use the positive potential of social media to make sure we didn’t lose the links and friendships we had forged during the past year at the Extra Time Hubs.”

Whilst not quite the same as meeting in person, technology has kept people’s spirits up.

Stella who attends Bolton’s Hub, says: “I can honestly say that when we did the first Extra Time Hubs Zoom I think it was the first time that I had laughed so much since the lockdown started. I have contact with family but they have busy lives. It’s so nice seeing everyone after so long. Thank you for keeping in touch!”

However we’ll leave the last word for what keeping in touch during Covid-19 has meant to the members of Crawley Town’ Extra Time Hubs…  

MICK: “I’m a different person since joining hubs. My confidence is returning and the guys at Crawley Town have really helped me.”

Mick Brown, who has been a Crawley Town supporter for over 55 years, credits EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hubs for making him feel like a kid again and giving him a new lease of life after attending for a number of months.

EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hubs are run at 11 EFL clubs around the country and are funded by the National Lottery and Sport England.  The Hubs are designed to bring retired and semi-retired people together by harnessing the power of their local Football Clubs and ultimately aimed at combating loneliness and inactivity.  

Before joining the Hub, Mick was mildly isolated and suffered from mental health issues. He believes the Hub has really helped him to boost his mood and find structure in his life.

He explained: “Extra Time Hubs has given me a focus and a structure once a week, the sessions really boost my mood and meeting and talking to new people has really helped me get my self-confidence back.

“As you get less young, rather than older, you can become very insular only thinking of yourself and your immediate family but with coming out and doing things like this, you get to see other people.

 “Having a circle of people that you can meet once a week, has helped me to speak about issues and build new friendships, you can talk about things openly and help each other through it.

The Hubs harness the unique assets of the EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs) network to bring older people together and provide a range of activities that could benefit their physical and mental health.As a boyhood Crawley Town supporter, he also states that being involved in Extra Time Hubs behind the scenes at the stadium makes it even more special.

He says: “As a normal fan you never get to be behind the scenes normally, but with Extra Time Hubs as it’s based at the stadium, you get the opportunity to see where the players go. It makes me feel like a kid in a toy shop.”

However, COVID-19 has obviously meant that the Hubs can no longer meet and Mick admits coping during the government restrictions has not been easy.

He says:  “It’s been tough, as I’ve been used to going out and about and seeing other people. I thought lockdown would get easier as time went on, but it’s got tougher for me. My children and grandchildren come to see us, which is always lovely but I don’t have any really close friends. The only contact with others has been through the Virtual Extra Time Hubs, which has kept me positive – the guys at Crawley are like my extended family.”

Crawley Extra Time Hubs have been moved online, meeting twice a week since the lockdown began, as Mick explains “On Tuesdays, I go into the Sporting Memories chat room at the Virtual Extra Time Hubs and on Friday we have the Virtual Extra Time Club. I really enjoy the Hub Quiz and I’m doing quite well on that. It’s given me something to look forward to and it’s a positive part of the day. Without a doubt, it’s kept me going and given me a focus twice a week and I know that you are only an email or phone call away – it’s nice to have that backup.”

Asked whether he recommend Extra Time Hubs to others Mick says: “You never know what you’re going to get out of something unless you try it and I’m a different person since joining the Hubs. My confidence is returning and you guys have helped me.”

Mary is ‘Mrs Motivator’ at Sunderland’s Extra Time Hubs

It’s very inclusive we have one member who uses a mobility scooter, which didn’t stop him being a goalie. With two of us in goal defending shots, we had a great time!

As part of Loneliness Awareness Week, we are celebrating the one year anniversary of Extra Time Hubs and highlighting stories of individuals whose lives have been positively impacted from the project.  The Hubs have been made possible with thanks to the support of Sport England’s Active Ageing fund from the National Lottery.

A key part of the Extra Time Hubs is that members of the Hub set their own agenda they decide what they want to do and nothing is off limits from bowls to bungee jumps, playing cards to playing ukulele.  Crucial to making this happen is the role of ‘motivator.’ These are members of the hub that take a lead role in the organisation or coordination of a particular activity.  

Mary is a motivator at Sunderland AFC’s Extra Time Hub. She talks about her experience:

“I found out about the Extra Time Hub in The Echo and at the Senior Supporters meeting. As an avid Sunderland supporter, I thought I’d go along to the Beacon and see what it was like – I’m so glad I did!  

“Straight away it was different from other activities as we were asked what we wanted to do. From the start they were aware of people’s varying needs and abilities and endeavors to ensure we all are catered for in a supportive way.

“It’s very inclusive – we have one member who uses a mobility scooter, which didn’t stop him being a goalie. With two of us in goal defending shots we had a great time!

“One of the biggest things I’ve got out of being in the group is meeting new people, trying different activities, enjoying various sporting activities and most of all having a laugh and a bit of fun.

“Former Black Cats players Kevin Ball and Gary Bennett came to talk to us, which was interesting. Gary even took time to come to one of our cookery demos. I was really impressed that he went round and talked to everyone. Jimmy’s Ministry of Food demonstrations are always fun, well thought out and encourages us to be healthy. You’re never too old to learn! Though I’ve still not quite conquered the modern oven yet – the Aga at home, which is older than me, is always on!

“It’s great having a variety of activities in the sports hall and everybody just mucks in. We encourage each other to have a go and love having a kick around. Our first hour is have a drink and a chat and then recently we do seated exercises which, I have to admit, some of us thought might be a bit easy but we soon changed our minds!

“We’ve had various quizzes, played bingo and are planning a games day when we can’t have access to a sports hall. We did find the ukulele challenging but the teacher was so patient a really lovely man. Think of Eric Morecambe playing all the right notes just not necessarily in the right order! Most of us knew where our fingers needed to be it was just getting them there in time that was the problem! We certainly laughed a lot.

“Pickle ball was another new activity which was very enjoyable though we preferred just playing without rules! It’s not that we’re rebels we just want to keep hitting the ball back, whether it’s not where it should be or not doesn’t really matter. It’s the same with table tennis which most people enjoy. We don’t bother scoring just keep returning the ball sometimes from the floor!

“I was lucky enough to spot boxing pads and gloves in store cupboard and now they’re out every week, which I thoroughly enjoy.

“We are still getting new members, one from walking football for cancer patients, two new members heard from somebody at their knit and natter group and a couple from another at The Senior Supporters. Whenever anybody new appears everybody makes them welcome. If anyone misses a week, staff show concern and ask if any one knows why before following up.

“However the thing that springs to mind when thinking of any activity is the laughter and fun we always have. The group continues to evolve and I’m sure we’ll have other new activities in the future. Everybody’s is listened to and their opinion is valued.

“I thoroughly recommend it and it’s such a bonus to be linked with Sunderland A.F.C.”

“The support Burton Albion Community Trust have provided to my dad and I, has made the past few difficult weeks bearable.”

As part of Loneliness Awareness Week, EFL Trust are celebrating the one year anniversary of Extra Time Hubs, highlighting stories of individuals whose lives have been positively impacted from the project. We’re also showcasing how EFL Club Community Organisations have continued to provide support to a vulnerable section of society throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today we look at how Burton Albion’s former player and current academy coach Shaun Barker has joined together with the Brewers Academy staff and players to help prevent loneliness in their community.

Burton Albion are one of 11 EFL Clubs whose community charity runs Extra Time Hubs. The Hubs is a national social movement for people in their retirement years, to meet weekly, socialise and do things they enjoy. Funded by Sport England through the National Lottery, each Extra Time Hub harnesses the power of a football club in the local community to bring retired and semi-retired people together to combat loneliness and inactivity. As weekly gatherings haven’t been possible since lockdown, Burton Albion Community Trust (BACT) have provided alternatives way to try and prevent loneliness and inactivity, with Barker and the academy players expressing a desire to get involved.

They were able to support the work BACT were doing for the local authority during lockdown by delivering parcels out in the community. This wasn’t an option for Barker due to a number of home commitments, however, he still made it clear that he wanted to help.

He said: “My wife’s business has been supporting our local village with a convenience store and I’ve been at home home-schooling our three daughters, so despite being really busy, I still wanted to help.

“BACT put me in touch with two men, John and Mark, who I’ve had weekly contact with over the phone. If I can make a difference to somebodies’ life by making a 20-minute phone call, then it’s really nice to know.

Studies show that 42% of those over the age of 55 are inactive. EFL Trust’s own research revealed many people would like the opportunity to meet peers to feel less isolated, live well and do things they enjoy.

Barker continues, “Both men are great and have seemed really appreciative of the calls over the past six or seven weeks. Mark’s a Burton fan and although John isn’t, I’ve still had lots to talk to them both about. It’s been far from a chore. We’re planning to meet up once we’re fully out of lockdown and hopefully I can invite them to a game.”

John’s son, contacted BACT to thank them and Shaun for their support. He said: “The support BACT have provided to my dad and I has made the past few difficult weeks bearable.

“My Dad turned 80 at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, but he had already had a difficult few months health-wise after a fall before Christmas. It triggered a sudden decline that saw him hospitalised three times in as many weeks. He picked up an infection in his first stay and now has a catheter, he requires a hip replacement, is diabetic, and has now been diagnosed with a heart condition too. 

“He lives alone and I’d spent the start of this year trying, largely unsuccessfully, to source some help for him as he was finding it difficult to cope. As Covid-19 unfolded, it became obvious we needed help from somewhere, but finding access to it proved difficult.

“We were signposted to BACT, who’ve been brilliant in arranging volunteers to find out what shopping my Dad needs and making sure it gets to him safely. Knowing someone was prepared to help with his food shopping when I might not be able to, was a huge weight off my mind. 

“We were satisfied enough, but BACT went even further when finding out that my dad felt quite isolated. BACT arranged for him to get a phone call every week just for a chat.

“Shaun Barker has been phoning my Dad and he’s really appreciated the call, despite never attending a football match in his life. The support BACT and Shaun have provided has been brilliant, and my dad has already been discussing with me how we can try and support them.”

To find out more about how EFL Community Club Organisations are tackling loneliness and isolation through the Extra Time Hubs visit www.efltrust.com/extratime/.

“After losing his wife, the impact and support from Plymouth’s Extra Time Hubs has been a lifeline for Roger.”

When Plymouth Argyle fan Roger tragically lost his wife at the beginning of lockdown. Argyle Community Trust’s Extra Time Hub stepped in to help Roger through this difficult time.    

Emma Potter, Argyle Health and disability officer takes up the story.  “Roger is a loyal Pilgrims season ticket holder and his son contacted us to see if there was any support out there for his father. He explained that not only has his dad suffered a terrible bereavement but because of his own health he was now having to self-isolate alone for 12 weeks.”   

Argyle Community Trust made contact with Roger to talk about their Extra Time Hub and what that could offer him, not only during COVID-19 but specifically during this difficult time for him.

Emma continues, “The EFL Trust Extra Time Hubs are designed for people like Roger who are retired or semi-retired. The hubs use the power of their local football clubs to combat both loneliness and inactivity.”

Roger explained that as his wife’s passing had come very suddenly. They had prepared for the next 12 weeks together and he was struggling to come to terms with her not being around and just wasn’t sure how he was going to cope. 

Emma adds “With his son living away from Plymouth, a support network would be vital for Roger. We established from the initial phone calls that Roger had a good support network which would enable him to receive food and prescriptions. However what he really needed from the Hub was to have someone to talk to, some emotional support and a number he could call if he needed to speak with someone, or if he had a problem.”

Throughout the period of lockdown the Extra Time Hub has supported Roger with 2 phone calls each week, Emma continues, “He talks a lot about his late wife and family. We listen to Roger when he has been feeling down and offer support where needed. This was particularly important at the time leading up to his wife’s funeral. Tragically Roger was not able to attend because he still had to shield, which was extremely hard for Roger. However, with the support from his family and the Extra Time Hub we were able to get through this. Although there have been lots of tears, there have also been lots of laughter and memories of happier times as we’ve reminisced about good days past with his beloved wife.”

The chats with Roger highlighted how big his love for Plymouth Argyle is, so the Community Trust arranged for the Chairman Simon Hallett and First Team coach Kevin Nancekivell to give Roger a call, to talk about all things Green Army.

Emma says, “Roger was overwhelmed by this and said ‘This meant the world to him’ and he’s looking forward to returning to Home Park and shaking their hands in person.”

The calls have continued and now that lockdown restrictions have lessened, a member of staff now makes socially distanced visits to Roger to chat in person.

Emma explains that: “This puts a face to the name and makes all the difference.  We have also been able to provide Roger with some exercises to do, which he has been doing daily and he is always eager to report that he has completed them.”

Argyle’s support has also helped Roger’s family. Recently his son contacted the Trust to say  a big thank you’  and explain how the help and support provided ‘have been a real comfort to me,  Dad always talks about your visits, help and chats, they lift his mood and spirits and make him happy as well as more importantly helping with his mental well-being’.

Emma concludes: “It has been a particularly difficult time for Roger, due to the terrible loss as well as the isolation from not only his family and friends but also from his beloved football.

“However the impact and support that the Extra Time Hub has been able to offer by having someone checking in, being a listening ear and also being that connection to the football club that he loves has been a lifeline.

“There has been a noticeable difference in Rogers mood, he appears more positive and seems to be having more good days now then bad. He is now looking forward to getting back to Home Park and joining in with our Extra Time Hub in person when allowed to do so.”

EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hub sessions are delivered by 11 EFL Clubs and are designed for those aged 55 with support from National Lottery funding from Sport England.

Maureen: “Being a volunteer with Extra Time Hubs has given me a huge confidence boost knowing that I’m helping others be both physically and socially active.”

As part of Loneliness Awareness Week, we are celebrating the one year anniversary of Extra Time Hubs and highlighting stories of individuals whose lives have been positively impacted from the project.

We’re also showcasing how EFL Club Community Organisations have continued to provide support to a vulnerable section of society throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hub sessions are delivered by 11 EFL Clubs and are designed for those aged 55 with support from National Lottery funding from Sport England.

Extra Time Hubs are designed to engage retired and semi-retired people by harnessing the power of their local football clubs and to combat both loneliness and inactivity.

Maureen’s story:

Maureen has been a part of Derby County Community Trust’s Forever Active programme for over three years. She first started as a participant but wanted to give back to the Trust and help others, so she became a volunteer with the Trust in early 2019.

Maureen said: “Being a volunteer with Derby County Community Trust has given me a huge confidence boost and increased my own wellbeing, knowing that I am helping others to be both physically and socially active.”

She started off supporting the weekly Stability session for over 60s but soon after she started volunteering we began planning for the launch of our Extra Time Hub. Immediately, Maureen asked to be a part of this session and has played a pivotal role ever since, from setting up the session each fortnight to keeping everyone supplied with plenty of tea and coffee!  

Maureen has not only helped those within the sessions but she has also helped people with their transition into joining the group. She is always happy about seeing people achieve their goals and progressing. She commits five hours per week to the Trust and is always the first to arrive and the last to leave.

During the COVID-19 pandemic she has been engaged in several group chats and is helping Jon (Physical Activity and Health Coach) to set challenges and encourage people to be more interactive in the group. As she has made friends within the group, she is calling them to make sure they are ok and if they need help in getting online to attend the virtual groups that are on offer.

Jon Fairbrother, Physical Activity and Health Coach added: “Maureen always has a smile on her face and is willing to help anyone. “Her enthusiasm encourages the group to continue to attend and has helped with social activities away from the group too, which has been so important during lockdown.”

“The Extra Time Hubs Zoom session with Bolton Wanderers Community Trust has become the highlight of our week.”

Whilst loneliness can be experienced by anyone at any stage of their life, it is often older people who find constant loneliness hardest to overcome and they lack the friendship and support we all need.

 ‘’When my wife and I retired we missed being part of the community. Extra Time Hubs was exactly what we were looking for.” Says Andy who has been a regular at Bolton Wanderers Extra Time Hub this year. 

EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hub sessions are delivered by 11 EFL Clubs and are designed for those aged 55. With support from National Lottery funding from Sport England the Hubs are designed to engage retired and semi-retired people by harnessing the power of their local football clubs and to combat both loneliness and inactivity.

Andy continued: “In the last 12 months both myself and my wife have recently retired from full time employment.  Both being supporters & season ticket holders at Bolton Wanderers on attending a football match we saw an advertisement for the Extra Time Hub at the Club.”

“We both had difficult jobs within the Police and the NHS respectively which involved a lot of interaction & communication with members of the public & the community. Having retired, suddenly we both found that we missed being part of the community. “

“We made enquires and found that the BWFC Extra Time Hub was what we were looking for, apprehensively we attended our first group meeting.  We meet people who we didn’t know, who we have never seen or spoken too before. But enjoyed what this new group had to offer. “

“We soon found that within the group there were a number of like-minded people who had a passion or interest in BWFC.  Within the group we found singles, married couples a mixture of people with very different interests & backgrounds, but they had the same aim to befriend like-minded people.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the BWFC Hub have not physically been able to get together.  Andy believes that some of the members were dependent or relied on the weekly communication and contact with the group, would have really struggled have the Community Trust not quickly made plans to say in touch.  

He says: “As members rely on the weekly routine attending and meeting the group. I feel that suddenly not being able to be involved with the group could have had some impact on their well-being or mental health due to the lockdown, self-isolation or shielding.

“Having to stop all social interaction, the Wanderers staff saw straight away the need to seek ways of keeping everyone connected.

“They arranged for contact to continue by the way of a simple telephone call or a text message. Then they created a Whatsapp group for its members and a Zoom group for meetings and general communication giving the Extra Time Hubs group an opportunity to be involved online.”

The regular phone call, a text message, a WhatsApp quiz or zoom communication that the BWFC CT has organised to its members of the different groups has ensured that they are not alone or isolated, the regular contact has ensured that everyone has a daily contact.

Something another member of the group Stella, really appreciates. “I honestly say that when we did the first Extra Time Hubs Zoom I think it was the first time that I had laughed so much since the lockdown started I have contact with family but they have busy lives. It’s so nice seeing everyone after so long thank you for keeping in touch.”

This is a view also shared by married couple Kathleen and Mick who say: “The Zoom session is our highlight of the week and the only time that we really ‘see’ people to have a laugh with.

“I know we are a couple but we can’t see our family and grandchildren although we talk on the phone and WhatsApp.

“The Extra Time Hubs Whatsapp group and Zoom session makes us feel as though we have contact with other like-minded people and gives us something to talk about apart from ‘what’s on the telly’.”

Sheila: “Extra Time Hubs is a ‘godsend’ I don’t know what I was missing!”

As part of Loneliness Awareness Week, we are highlighting stories of individuals whose lives have been positively impacted by Extra Time Hubs and how our EFL Club Community Organisations have continued to provide support to a vulnerable section of society throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst loneliness can be experienced by anyone at any stage of their life, it is often older people who find constant loneliness hardest to overcome and they lack the friendship and support we all need.

EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hub sessions are delivered by 11 EFL Clubs and are designed for those aged 55 with support from National Lottery funding from Sport England.

Extra Time Hubs are designed to engage retired and semi-retired people by harnessing the power of their local football clubs and to combat both loneliness and inactivity.

Sheila’s story

Sheila Davies, who was given a distressing cancer diagnosis resulting in a long and difficult treatment plan that changed her life forever, describes Shrewsbury Town’s Extra Time Hub as a ‘godsend’ and that her world began to open up when she joined the session.

Sheila worked as an Assistant Manager at one of Shrewsbury’s local goldsmiths, until she had an accident resulting in a broken ankle. It was this injury that lead doctors to discover and give her the distressing cancer diagnosis and changed her life forever. During this time, Sheila understandably stopped working but began to present symptoms of a hereditary condition called Muscular Dystrophy.

In 2010 the road to cancer recovery began with Sheila learning to adapt to her ongoing condition. However, the euphoria of an all clear was cut short as mobility issues started to become a barrier in all aspects of her life; the hard-work Sheila put into her recovery could not stop.

It was in 2016 that Sheila’s grandson Tom mentioned the Extra Time Hubs group at Shrewsbury Town Community Trust. Following a quick coercion of her close friend Mary, both ladies attended the session for the first time. What they found was a weekly group of 40 older adults that come together for a cup of tea, indoor and outdoor activities, quizzes, games, crafts and more. Guest speakers and day trips away were a pleasant surprise and all with the support of friendly, experienced staff. In the four years since, both Sheila and Mary haven’t looked back once.

Sheila describes Extra Time Hubs as a ‘godsend’, saying that she didn’t know she was missing. Her world began to open following that first visit. Sheila took comfort in finding a place that offered her the facilities she needs to feel included and safe with regards to her mobility. The opportunity to defy her expectations of what was physically possible with her disability gave Sheila hope to continue the management of her condition with renewed vigor.

Over the last 4 years Sheila describes her favourite elements of the group as the day trips away, the opportunity to participate in physical activity and the visit of guest speakers. Being very much a social butterfly, Sheila has revelled in creating new friendships and bonds with other members of the group and often looks forward to the annual Christmas get together weeks in advance.

Taking day trips away is an Extra Time Hubs staple as the regular venue is unavailable during school holidays. It’s something that members like Sheila absolutely love; knowing that she will be looked after and supported in going to interesting places. The seaside, local walks and museum are all trips that Sheila has very fond memories of, ‘what could be better than taking a trip with friends, when all the hard work and planning is done for you!’

The no pressure approach to physical activities is also a key element of the group that has a huge impact on Sheila’s life. She feels confident to do as much or as little as she likes during session, without fear of pressure to participate. Sheila has been able to take part in lots of activities, overcoming her own perceived barriers with guards to mobility and her walking frame.

Away from the Shrewsbury Town Extra Time Hub, Sheila and a few of the other members regularly meet for drinks, food and social afternoons. Sheila is a very popular member of both groups thanks to her fantastic sense of humour and kind nature. More than that, she has become a beacon in this group, a diligent friend, regularly reaching out to other members with phone calls and cards.

The most important difference in Sheila’s life since her first visit in 2016, is the wonderful social life that has grown from joining the group, her confidence has begun to grow and her world has opened, ‘a transformation has occurred’. Upon leaving her career to battle with her health, Sheila became isolated. Sheila has a fantastic family, but without the routine of work and the freedom of easy mobility she soon had a lifestyle that didn’t suit her. Even the happiest, most positive person can become disillusioned. Sheila would never have described herself as lonely, only saying that she didn’t get out much. The group has helped to give that structure back, she looks forward to Thursday mornings, knowing there is a cup of tea and a new friend waiting for her. ‘Having something to look forward to just makes such a difference in life’

Although Muscular Dystrophy is a degenerative condition, Sheila feels safe coming to the Extra Time Hub thanks to Shrewsbury Town Community Trust’s accessible venue. She knows that she can join in physical activities if she wishes, playing games of bowls, botcha, even cricket and football. Admitting that she doesn’t take any exercise at home, these moments of movement are joyful for her, and of course improve so many elements of her overall wellbeing. 

During conversation with Mary, Sheila’s best friend explained ‘It got both of us out! It’s difficult to find places to get to and be part of. With regards to accessibility, the club was a big tick. We didn’t realise it would be so sport related, but we were allowed to fit in regardless, doing as much or as little as we liked’

Mary went on to say: “With her disability, she was becoming shut in with nowhere to go and no one to see, with the help of the Hub, she has been able to come back to the Sheila she was. When you’re shut up at home you become isolated and you lose confidence. It’s renewed her sense of self and sense of purpose. It has given us both more confidence.”

Sheila has said that joining the Hub has enhanced her life greatly. When asked to sum up the ways in which, she was lost for words. The most important element for her, is finding a big group of friends. Having to leave work the way she did, with the health difficulties that have shaped the next phase of her life, it means the world to her, to have found real friendships. The recurring phrase she used that is perhaps the most fitting for her experience, to use it again, is that it has been a ‘godsend’.