AN organisation which has helped thousands of people across Epping Forest is celebrating 28 years of helping the community.

Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF) was launched in April 1993 and its ongoing mission is to work with the people of the districts of Epping Forest and Harlow to support and develop voluntary and community activity.

VAEF constantly develops new initiatives to meet community needs such as Ace Activities for people with learning difficulties, benefits advice, befriending for older people who live on their own or in isolation and gardening and handyman services, providing help from trusted workers to people who need it. The charity also provides a comprehensive volunteer service to help local people become involved in volunteering.

Carole, a VAEF gardening services volunteer said: “I just wanted to feedback on my recent morning of volunteering in Waltham Abbey. I really enjoyed helping as I love gardening, but what made it so special was seeing the difference in the gardens and how much the elderly folk appreciated our help.

"I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for all you do with this much needed and valuable project. It really does showcase what a massive difference VAEF makes to the lives of those who have a bit of a struggle and how this helps with their well-being.”

Julie, whose mum Iris attends one of VAEF’s popular befriending clubs, said: "It’s somewhere for her to not only meet other people, but also to participate in activities that help her dementia - possibly as much as her medication does. She plays bingo, dances, joins in raffles and goes on all the wonderful trips they organise.

"She comes home full of stories of where they have been and what they have seen. It also means my father - her main carer - gets a few hours respite from the day-to-day stress of caring with someone with dementia."

If you would benefit from one of VAEF's services, contact them on 01992 910 701 or email