MBE winner invites elderly and lonely folk to meet-ups

From left, PCSO's Joanne Hopping and Miles Miller, next to, Jill Haynes, 74, with grandaughter, Freya Ashton, nine, Betty Welberry, 80, Shelia Boott, 64, and Doreen Sillman, 82. Picture: OX64380 David Fleming

From left, PCSO's Joanne Hopping and Miles Miller, next to, Jill Haynes, 74, with grandaughter, Freya Ashton, nine, Betty Welberry, 80, Shelia Boott, 64, and Doreen Sillman, 82. Picture: OX64380 David Fleming Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

AN ABINGDON woman given an MBE for devoting her life to caring for others has set up her own version of a neighbourhood watch group.

Once a month Doreen Sillman invites all her lonely and elderly neighbours to her house in Parsons Mead, Abingdon.

Their local Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) joins them, and they discuss current events.

Mrs Sillman, 82, said: “We discuss all sorts of things and just care for each other.

“It’s all about keeping an eye on each other, we should care for people in the community.

“There are a lot of lonely people. I am lucky not to be lonely, so I pick up a telephone and talk to people who are.”

Mrs Sillman received an MBE for her services to fostering in 2007.

She said the children she has fostered in the past 30 years, all with special needs, are “too numerous to count”.

It started after her own three children had flown the nest.

She still cares for 18 and 20-year-olds, who come to her house once a month.

They either go on an outing for the day or they will stay in and learn basic skills like cooking or housekeeping.

She said: “You are never too old to care. It is a challenge but it is a very enjoyable one.”

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Mrs Sillman, who used to teach at St Barnabas Primary School, Jericho, Oxford before her marriage, also cares for her husband, Peter, 84.

In March he had a brain haemorrhage, which left him unable to speak. On February 12 they will celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary.

She also sits on Oxfordshire County Council’s corporate parenting panel representing foster carers.

Now she plans to write the story of her life in caring, from her own upbringing in Middle Way, Oxford, to the present.

That would include, of course, her devoted readership of the Oxford Mail since age 10.

She said: “Even if I go away I read the paper on returning. I just like local news.”

If you would like to join Mrs Sillman’s monthly chat group, she can be contacted on 01235 524004.

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