BICESTER Village has given elderly people in the county an early Christmas present – £5,000 to help run 20 Good Neighbour Schemes throughout this winter and the coming year.

Value Retail, the ‘landlord’ company at Bicester Village, in Pringle Drive, has put aside a chunk of its charity budget for 2013 to help the old and isolated, as part of the Surviving Winter scheme being promoted by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.

Last year 170 people died in the county in circumstances linked to cold weather.

And according to the foundation, for every person who died, there were dozens more, mainly the elderly, suffering from isolation and hardship.

Now they are encouraging people to give money, or their time as a volunteer, to help.

Miranda Markham, relations director at Bicester Village said: “There is a big appetite for helping others among the staff. People are coming forward already.”

Vera Smith, 96, has only been with the scheme for around six weeks but says she greatly enjoys her visits from befriender Anna Simpson.

Mrs Simpson, from Bicester, said: “I really enjoy meeting Vera. My weekly visits are always good fun – we chat, play cards and I help with a few chores.”

  • People wishing to donate to the Surviving Winter campaign can give online by visiting and giving via the Surviving Winter page.
  • Please make cheques payable to Oxfordshire Community Foundation, 3 Woodin’s Way, Oxford, OX1 1HD Or text: Snow00 (followed by your donation of £1-£10) to 70070 l
  • The money will also pay for other expenses necessary for the groups to run, including any transport costs and telephone calls.
  • For more details on volunteering for the Bicester Good Neighbour Scheme, call 01869 242808.