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Home-Start Lorn has waved off manager Aileen Binner after 24 years of supporting hundreds of families.
This week Aileen met up with Karen Scott, the first mum she helped, to be presented with a bouquet wishing her well as she stepped down from the post that has made a big difference to so many peoples’ lives over almost quarter of a century.
Karen, who now volunteers with the charity, was put in touch with Home-Start Lorn when she had twins and post-natal depression. With no family support, her husband working away – she was ‘overwhelmed’ by becoming a mum and was ‘in a bad state’.
Looking back at the support Aileen put in place for her, buddying her up back in 1997 with volunteer Irene Harrower, was ‘lifesaving’ said Karen.
‘I looked forward to those two hours a week so much when Irene would come to see us. It kept me sane knowing I could do something on my own like have a bath or nip to the shops. The support lasted beyond when it should’ve stopped, we saw Irene for sometime after the boys were three and we are still friends to this day.
‘I’ve supported two families since I started volunteering. It’s an amazing charity, it has saved lives mentally and physically,’ she said.
Home-Start Lorn supports 20 families at the moment from across the Oban area stretching to Mull, Appin, Ardfern, Kilmartin and out to Luing, Lismore and down as far as Dalmally.
With 32 years now under its belt and having helped about 600 families in that time, the Lorn organisation is part of a national network of 30 other schemes across Scotland.
There are 25 volunteers supporting families but more are always needed. A commitment of three hours a week is asked for and training is given. Anyone who has had children is always great but anyone who is really interested in families would also be potential volunteers.
Aileen said: ‘It’s not just about being there for the children, it’s about the parents too. It’s been very difficult over the last year. I feel for anyone who has had babies in lockdown, I suspect they have felt totally isolated. Babies and parents would have lost out on social interaction. Mums haven’t been able to meet up with others and voice how they feel, chatting about babies waking up every hour. They need us more than ever right now.’
Most families are referred by health visitors, some from midwives and some from social workers. Support is offered to anyone for whom a couple of hours a week with a friendly face and a listening ear can make a difference.
Main funders of the charity’s work are the Big Lottery, the Henry Smith Charity and William Grant Foundation.
‘I will miss the volunteers and the families, they have all been my family,’ said Aileen, who is now taking on a role with the Church of Scotland supporting congregations without ministers of their own.
‘My faith has always been important to me. This job is the only thing that would have lured me away from Home-Start,’ she added.
Aileen’s replacement is Hannah Gillies who is from Oban and will be starting soon.
One of the groups run by Home-Start in town is the Stork Cafe at Hope Kitchen on a Wednesday from 2pm, where Home-Start families can meet up.
To find out more about Home-Start Lorn go to homestartlorn.org.uk