Big-hearted grans are first winners of our unsung heroes prize
Two caring grans, who have opened up a new world of fun and friendship for Toryglen pensioners, have become the first recipients of stunning bouquets in the Reformer’s new Say it with Flowers competition.
When Meika Thomson read that the Rutherglen Reformer wanted to say ‘thanks a bunch’ every week to unsung heroes who make a real difference to their community, she didn’t hesitate to nominate her mum Cathy and best friend Suzanne Curran for a beautiful bouquet from Burnside florist, Stems.
Cathy and Suzanne, who have run the Toryglen After School Care club for 23 years, refused to turn the other cheek when they saw pensioners from a neighbouring sheltered housing complex staying indoors, living in isolation and lacking company and companionship.
Saying hello to Cathy and Suzanne as they passed the Geoff Shaw community centre where the after school club meets was often the only interaction some of the pensioners from the Thistle Housing complex had.
When Polmadie Fire Station donated a snooker table to the club nearly three years ago, Cathy and Suzanne saw it as an opportunity to persuade elderly residents to leave their armchairs and drop into the centre for a game of snooker and a chat.
A resident from the housing complex spread the word among his neighbours and soon eight men were going to the centre to while away their afternoons and evenings with a game of snooker and friendly banter.
Glasgow Life’s Mark Hudson suggested establishing a sports hub in the centre and advised Cathy and Suzanne how to apply for funding.
Thanks to the two grans, carpet bowls, team tennis, boccia, badminton, sitting tai chi and computing classes were soon added to the list of activities on offer at the centre for Toryglen pensioners.
“We had a marvellous time getting to know them,” said, Cathy, 61, of King’s Park.
“At first, they were gentlemanly, but within two weeks, they’d come out of their shell and were just being themselves.”
Before she and Cathy stepped in, Suzanne said elderly residents from the housing complex on Kerrylamont Avenue would pass each other as strangers on the way to the local shops. Now they are friends who are in and out of each other’s homes.
“It is just wonderful, seeing the difference in their lives,” said 49-year-old Suzanne, of Toryglen.
“Seeing them from hardly walking to totally changing is marvellous. One man did not go out the house after losing his wife a couple of years before, and he just loved the company.”
Volunteers Cathy and Suzanne organised a bus to take the neighbours on a day trip to Ayr - and the appreciative group paid for the pair’s seats to the seaside.
The two women are now planning their annual pensioners’ Christmas lunch at which kids from the after school club will delight diners by singing carols.
In nominating her mum and Suzanne, Meika told the Reformer: “Some of these men had not even been outside their doors in over a few years, so this got them back into the community. Most recently, they have set up a memories group where they meet and talk about the past.
“These groups have created a great feeling and the residents have created a great relationship with Cathy and Suzanne and also give the kids from the after school a wee hello when they pass by.”
Choking back the tears as Meika presented them with the Stems’ bouquets, Cathy said: “I am speechless. We don’t often get a pat on the back. That’s not what we do this for. But to be acknowledged like this is simply wonderful.”
To nominate someone for a hand-crafted bouquet from Stems, send your name, address and contact number, the name of the person you wish to nominate and information about why you think they deserve to receive the Bouquet of the Week to: Say It With Flowers competition, Rutherglen Reformer, One Central Quay, Glasgow G3 8DA, or email news@ rutherglenreformer.co.uk.
Entries should arrive by on Monday. If yours is the winner, our reporter will contact you to arrange for the flowers to be delivered to the winner. We’ll capture the moment on camera, and share your unsung hero’s story and your appreciation for all they do, in the pages of the Reformer.
We don’t often get a pat on the back
Thanks a bunchCathy Thomson, left, with daughter Meika Thomson and best pal Suzanne Curran