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Unsung hero: Keeping the elderly and lonely company
A churchgoing grandmother who organised festive Christmas lunches for people spending the season alone has continued to work her magic by dropping in on elderly and vulnerable people all year round.
Retired nurse Sarah Stokes, 66, has spent the last five Christmases at the YMCA in Surbiton putting together the perfect celebration – turkey and tinsel in tow for more than 100 people.
But this year she will finally be spending the holiday with her own family after stepping down from the role at St Andrews’ and St Marks’ Church parish.
She said: “It is great fun. We sing carols by candlelight, we watch the Queen’s speech and we have a great big bag of presents. It is a big do. It gives everyone a nice Christmas.
“My family live close by so we could always rearrange and celebrate Christmas another day – or even eat a bit later.”
The grandmother-of-two, who is a member of Kingston Choral Society and a keen tennis player, has also been visiting people living alone in need of a bit of company as part of her role as a voluntary parish care assistant. She said: “It’s like visiting friends. They are always so pleased to see you.
“When you live alone it can get quite boring so it’s nice to see a member of the congregation.
“You get so much more out of it than you give.”
Fellow churchgoer Alex Ritson said: “I think the fact that she has given up her Christmas every year is particularly special.
“She puts in work with several older people – going to see them, having them stay over when they are vulnerable. She is a good neighbour.”
Her husband Peter Stokes jokingly said: “I have been with her for 42 years so she must be doing something right. I sometimes get tired by the amount of phone calls she gets from people she is helping.
“She is always helping people.”
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