Salt of the Earth: Meet Sharon Tyson and George Ball who forged a friendship in Harrogate
One thing the people we feature in Salt of the Earth share is the desire to make a difference in the life of another person.
They happily give their time with little more in return than a smile and a thank you.
However, what they find is sometimes way more than they expected, small groups become organisations, money is raised and communities are changed.
Many form lifelong friendships, both with those they work alongside and those they set out to help.
For some this can be life-changing as with this week’s Salt of the Earth, Sharon Tyson.
Sharon, 53, was working on reception when she first heard about Supporting Older People (SOP).
She said: “I’d heard about Supporting Older People before when a lady I was working with mentioned that she went to see somebody once a week.
“I just love the older generation. I think that they deserve a good life. It’s our turn to look after them.
“I gave Julia Lightfoot, the SOP befriending and activities manager a call, filled in some forms and got DBS checked.
“I said to Julia I’d like to meet a gentleman with some stories and she said: ‘I’ve got just the man for you.’”
Julia introduced Sharon to George Ball and a firm friendship was born.
Julia said: “When Sharon came into the Supporting Older People office with her lovely smile and sparkling personality I knew she would be a perfect match for George.
“Although he had an active social life George was missing a constant person in his life who could visit on a weekly basis and Sharon fitted the bill. It was a perfect match.”
Sharon, a facilities coordinator for an insurance broker in Harrogate, said: “I visit every week, sometimes twice a week and speak to him often, sometimes it can be three times a day.
“I get as much out of it as he does if I’m honest. He’s a LEGEND in capital letters. It’s just lovely to be able to go and have a chat.”
And what do the pair talk about during their time together? Sharon said: “What don’t we talk about? Just stories from when he was younger and in the forces. George still drives and he’s 97 in March, but you wouldn’t know it.
“He plays the organ. It’s one with two sets of keys. He absolutely loves music.
“I hear his stories about when he was younger and the business he was in. We’ve been out to Bridlington for the day and we like to go out for meals sometimes.
“He loves to tell jokes, although some are a little colourful! He has a great love of chocolate and also fish and chips.
“When we were in Bridlington I got a video of him singing “I do like to be beside the seaside.”
It’s a video Sharon has watched again and again to cheer herself up when she’s feeling blue.
Since lockdown, Sharon and George have formed a support bubble and are now making plans to spend the perfect Christmas together.
George said: “If in any way I can say that Sharon is a good person, I will. I’m very happy to be associated with her and if she’s ever in any trouble I’ll be there for her.”
“She’s always there ready for me when I pick up the phone.”
“We talk about the war and the way I am. During the war I was involved in the mechanical works for preparing spitfires and we taught young men to be pilots.
“I used to do lots of PT and was on the Yorkshire gymnastics team.
“I played English Bridge and I was a master first class.
“I’ve had a fascinating life, I used to be an M.C - I was a real Les Dawson.”
“Sharon has been coming and spending time with me during lockdown as part of my bubble. She’s very good and she’ll stick with me through thick or thin.
“She makes a huge difference to me carrying on living here. I’m just sorry she can’t spend more time with me. The only other step is to go into a care home and get ready to die.
“I’m a good Christian and I say my prayers daily. I keep asking God to take me to heaven. But they tell me ‘he’s not ready for you yet.’”
“Whoever I meet I treat them with respect. I’m kind and generous. So, if there’s any widow out there who wants to be there for the rest they should get in touch. I’m agile, not bad looking, 5’7” and have a full head of hair!”
Supporting Older People was founded in 1982 aiming to alleviate the loneliness and isolation often experienced by older people living on their own.
Before lockdown they ran a successful befriending service and various other activities including a dining out club, tea and talk, music and movement, singing and outings.
Julia Lightfoot, Befriending & Activities Manager said: “At the present time we are looking for volunteer telephone befrienders who would be willing, when Government guidelines permit to be face to face befrienders.
“We also provide frozen meals cooked by Paul from Pablo’s Kitchen and £15 food bags from Asda, both services for people in need – these services are free of charge.”
You can find out more online at www.supportingolderpeople.org,uk or by calling 07535 508043.