It may surprise you to learn that Alzheimer Scotland only has three branches across the country.
Here in Falkirk, the local branch co-ordinates fund and awareness raising across the Falkirk Council area – from Banknock to Bo’ness.
Like many committees these days, the numbers may be small but the enthusiasm of its members is limitless.
The seven dedicated volunteers – secretary David McMenemy, his mum Grace who is the finance officer, chairman Maureen Boslem, acting chairman Jim Thomson and committee members Dot Gordon, Margaret French and Sandra Burdge – rope in family members and friends to lend a hand at regular collection days in local supermarkets and shopping centres.
However, with so few troops on the ground, the group is now looking to welcome more volunteers to continue its good work.
David said: “One of the challenges we have is that people think a committee is very formal.
“Yes, we do have to do the accounts and some formal business but that’s not our main focus.
“We meet once every six weeks or so, mainly to discuss fund and awareness raising initiatives.
“But with only seven of us on the committee, it’s often difficult to think of new ways to bring money in.”
Sadly, two very dedicated members of the committee died in the last couple of years – founding member Bob Robertson and Margaret Cheyne.
David said: “Although Bob was 93 when he died last year, he was still very active.
“While the rest of us are young in comparison, the age profile of the committee is going in only one direction.
“My parents, for example, are both in their 70s and mum can’t stand for longer than an hour when we’re doing a collection.
“And while we all rope our family and friends in to help, we sometimes struggle to get enough volunteers.
“What we really need now is an injection of new blood on the committee with fresh ideas about fundraising and volunteers who can help during our collection days.”
There’s little doubt the Falkirk branch is a necessity.
Around 2600 people in the Falkirk Council area have dementia but countless others are living with the condition yet undiagnosed.
Money raised locally is, in the main, spent here. It is used to organise activities for patients and carers in Falkirk district, including days out, a weekly coffee club, a singing group and Christmas lunch.
The branch also donates funds to the Maples in Stenhousemuir, a day care service run by Alzheimer Scotland.
Happily, the people of Falkirk are generous. A collection at Morrisons in Falkirk just before Christmas amassed £1335 and a few months earlier £800 was raised at Tesco in Redding.
While the branch is grateful for this continued support, it hopes more people will now consider donating their time too.
Committee member Dot Gordon said: “We are very grateful for all the support we have received from the public in Falkirk.
“People have been very generous to the branch and the number of youngsters who donated at our last collection in Redding also blew out of the water the perception that young people don’t care.
“But it’s not all about donations from people’s pockets. What we need more than anything now is more bodies to help.
“For instance, we’d be delighted to hear from anyone who would be willing to take on an event on our behalf – the London Marathon or a similar fundraising feat.
“It would be fantastic if people approached us as, sadly, Alzheimer Scotland doesn’t always get the same exposure as other charities.”
Jim Thomson, acting chairman, knows how much support Alzheimer Scotland can offer families.
In the 1990s, he and his wife Moira looked after his mum Betty.
He said: “We became my mother’s carers when she developed Alzheimer’s.
“During this time, we attended carers’ meetings and my mother went to day care organised by Alzheimer Scotland’s Falkirk service.
“After mum passed away in 1998, I became a Falkirk branch member because I realised how important it was to support this very valuable service.”
Branch members meet at the Maples every six weeks and new volunteers are welcome. The next meetings are on May 14 and June 25.
To find out more, contact David McMenemy on 01324 333529 or 07722 029295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Maples: Open Day For All
In Forth Valley, Alzheimer Scotland runs Maples Day Care at 33 Johnston Avenue, Stenhousemuir.
The Maples has recently been refurbished and an open day will be held on Saturday, June 9, from 10am to 2pm – to coincide with Dementia Awareness Week.
Forth Valley service manager Fay Godrey said: “The refurbishment has just been completed and the service users are all delighted with it.
“It’s a really nice space which is fit for purpose.
“We can’t wait to welcome visitors to the centre in June to see all the changes.”
The Maples offers a wide range of activities, tailored to meet individual interests.
It provides an opportunity to socialise and helps people to maintain their independence and pursue hobbies.
Carers also benefit from time to themselves.
Sessions run from 10.30am to 2.30pm, Monday to Friday, with space for eight people each day.
Referrals to the service have to be made by Falkirk Council’s social work department.
The Maples also runs a garden club, with spaces for up to four people with dementia, every Monday and Thursday.
And some of its plants and goods will be on sale during the open day on June 9.
As for the help the Maples receives from the Falkirk branch, Fay added: “It has been a great support to us, particularly for providing extras, such as Christmas parties or summer outings.
“It’s that wee bit extra that makes all the difference.”
Alzheimer Scotland is the leading dementia organisation in Scotland. It leads campaigns and provides an extensive range of services.
It also runs a 24 hour Dementia Helpline on 0808 808 3000 or email email@example.com.