Over 100 members and volunteers attended a celebratory lunch and dance in honour of an elderly voluntary groups ten-year anniversary yesterday.

Voluntary Action Epping Forest’s Befriending Service launched in March 2009, giving pensioners across the district a chance to attend weekly social gatherings and outings.

Members from the North Weald, Loughton and Waltham Abbey clubs enjoyed an afternoon tea-styled lunch at Theydon Bois Village Hall followed by live renditions of popular 1940s and 50s songs.

Chief Officer Jacqui Foile, from Uttlesford, said “It’s been wonderful and a massive achievement. it’s been a lot of planning I would love to have clubs open in every district.

“We currently receive support from the Sulley Foundation but we are hoping to secure more funding from The Big Lottery.”

Describing the 70 volunteers who offer their free time Ms Foile added: “They are really very special people, they give up so much time and always thinking of new ideas for the group.”

Originally set up as a one-to-one service for housebound residents, VAEF now offers bi-monthly outings and a minibus service to take members for weekly catchups.

Bev Sautor from Theydon Bois, who has been a volunteer for four years, said she wanted to help out by giving something back to the community.

“I worked in London for 20 years before volunteering and to see their faces each week is so much more rewarding,” she explained. “For some of these people, it’s the only time they get to travel outside of the house.”

Community Agent, Glenda Templeman, from Ongar, who helps refer new members to VEAF was also in attendance at the festivities.

She said: “I have never known a service like this to last as long as this. Social isolation in the elderly is the key to beginning of depression for most elderly residents.

“The key part is VAEF offer transport as Epping Forest is a very rural area.”

One of the longest attending members, Frank Terry, from North Weald, was one of many people to describe co-ordinator Julie Bristow as “marvellous” in running all three clubs.

Ms Bristow dedication, alongside bus driver Trevor Selthon and session worker Claire Marsh, was awarded with thank you presents from VAEF members.

Ronnie Dunning and her husband Michael, from Loughton, joined the club last September as a way to keep going out who both struggle with their mobility.

“We love it because the volunteers will take Mike out for a cigarette when he wants and I can talk to others who suffer from similar situations.

Although Ms Dunning is still able to drive, she suffers from Parkinson’s whilst Mr Dunning has been wheelchair bound since having a stroke four years ago.

“We did not know this place existed before we joined, if we did not have this club, I don’t know what we would do.”

The day was rounded off with a raffle filled with donated prizes and a surprise cake in honour of the VAEF’s decade of service.

For more information call 01992 910701 or visit vaef.org.uk.