Beryl Jones likes to keep busy. The sprightly octogenarian is one Northwick Park’s longest serving volunteers after originally working with the Red Cross offering free massages and nail care to patients.
Nowadays, she works in the more sedate environs of administration two days a week and has been nominated for Volunteer of the Year in the national Unsung Hero Awards.
“It’s nice to be recognised,” said the 89 year-old who originally came to London as a teenager from the Welsh Valleys.
She worked as a bank clerk in the City but stopped working to devote herself to Cathy, her third child, who was mentally disabled.
“There was no understanding or support for physically and mentally disabled children back then.
“Children like Cathy weren’t allowed to go to school because they were labelled as mentally subnormal and not capable of being educated. It beggars belief nowadays. It was really Dickensian but things slowly improved over the years.”
Beryl and her daughter were among the first patients to use Northwick Park when it opened in 1970 and continued to do so until her daughter passed away.
She started volunteering 50 years ago helping mentally disabled children including setting up a toy library before working for the Red Cross and finally Northwick Park Hospital for the past 15 years.
“I always felt that I should volunteer as a thank you to the hospital over the years. The consultant who looked after my daughter was so kind it felt like the right thing to do.
“I think everyone should volunteer in some capacity because helping people does as much good for you as it is for them.”
“I’ll be 90 this year and it’s nice to still feel useful.”