Jedburgh volunteer Isobel is honoured with British Citizens Award

Isobel Lafferty with Chris Larmer from the Co-operative Bank, left, and awards host Michael  Underwood.
Isobel Lafferty with Chris Larmer from the Co-operative Bank, left, and awards host Michael Underwood.

A Jedburgh pensioner responsible for bringing others together through a weekly lunch club has been recognised for her services to the community.

Isobel Lafferty was awarded a British Citizen Award at a ceremony at Westminster Palace, in London, last week.

The 72-year-old was commended, in particular, for her work with the Jedburgh Lunch Club, a free service offering weekly gatherings to elderly residents.

Managing a team of around eight volunteers, coordinates a two-course meal, and transport to and from the club’s meetings in the Thistle Pavilion at the Glebe, for 24 elderly residents each Thursday.

But last Thursday was a little different for Isobel, as she instead was in the House of Lords picking up a reward for her efforts.

“It was quite an experience, I’ll tell you that,” the former accounts and administrative assistant said. “It was something I didn’t expect at all, but it’s very good for the town.

“It’s something for Jedburgh because we work as a community in all areas of the town. It’s really put us on the map.”

Originally from Thurso in the north of Scotland, Isobel moved to Jedburgh with her husband Jeremy Portch in 2010 and now lives in at The Nest.

She’s been involved with the club, originally set up by the Women’s’ Royal Voluntary Service some 20 years ago, and later run by Borders Voluntary Older People’s Service until three years ago, and she’s been the driving force behind the entirely self-funded group for almost two years since the volunteers took it over.

Outside of the weekly gatherings Isobel is also ‘on-call’, so to speak, to deal with any issues or illnesses members may have, often being a vital point of contact between members and carers, social workers and medical staff, when needed.

Some of the two dozen club members have mobility or health problems or are in danger of being isolated at home.

It’s for this reason, Isobel believes the club is so important for tackling social isolation.

“Usually 21 of the 24 regular attendees require transport and that shows you that were it not for clubs like this there would be a real risk that they’d be stuck in the house,” she added.

A former Queen’s Guide, Isobel organised her first coffee morning in aid of Dr Barnardo children’s charity aged just eight years old.

“I was always an organiser even from a very young age,” she added. “I could always see something needing done and was one of these people that would say ‘come on, lets get to it’ and believed there was always something we could do.

“Being a Girl Guide was really the best thing for me. It trains you to do things to help others.

“But I must thank all the volunteers and driver who help keep the club going.

“They are all retired, but they have the time and they certainly have the energy. We would be lost without these volunteers.”

Isobel was one of 30 medallists honoured at the ceremony on Thursday, January 24

She was presented with a medal, inscribed with the words “for the Good of the Country’ by Chris Larmer, from award sponsor The Co-operative Bank.

Fellow lunch club volunteers Charlotte Barker and Linda Johnston, who nominated her for the award, accompanied her to the celebration.

“We were three keen bunnies after that night,” Isobel added. “We came away full of ideas and with so much enthusiasm for what else we could be doing. That was the great thing about the awards - seeing what others had been doing in their community.

“There were some amazing people there from across the whole spectrum of volunteering.”

The event was hosted by television presenter Michael Underwood, who said: “Having presented the very first British Citizen Awards, it’s a real honour to be invited back and a privilege.

“I am in awe learning more about the incredible people being recognised for their contribution to society.”

Now in their fourth year, the twice-annual British Citizen Awards recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society.