Ready for the road. Patrons with Age Concern's fabulous mobile support wagon. From left to right: Jill Hendry, Iain Pearson, Amanda Phillips, Ben Wright

 

Some of the regions’ key businesses have been taking a walk around Worden Park in Leyland today to discuss corporate life in the new normal, how the pandemic has shifted business priorities and how they can build resilience for themselves and the communities they serve.

This is Purposeful Business networking at its best, but not as many companies know it. The cross-sector mix in the Park today – from Taylors Estate Agents to Preston’s College, web developers Stone Create to Sundown Group, Evolve Document Solutions to Electricity North West – have all signed up to be Patrons of Age Concern Central Lancashire, an independent multi-award-winning charity celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. With a history of pushing boundaries and punching above its weight – it’s spent over £42 million on charitable activity in the region since its launch – it now offers its new and growing band of Patrons (over 20 so far) a networking forum and a channel to build new bold, brand-enhancing and gap-closing resilience in the communities where they are based.

Age Concern Central Lancashire’s big plans for its 2021 anniversary were brought to a halt as lockdowns were announced and then extended into this year.  All efforts were channelled into offering a coronavirus support service for those grieving or isolated or struggling to survive – everything from a helpline to food parcel deliveries, a befriending service to extraordinary events. Think VE Day afternoon with tea delivered to the door. Or a night in at the movies, charity shop DVDs and Odeon-donated-popcorn distributed to those who needed a ‘night out’ most.  Their ambition to raise £40k in their anniversary year was put on hold. The fact that it has already raised some £20k via business and volunteer efforts (the likes of McDonald’s teams who’ve completed litter-picking walks between the region’s outlets collecting donations to the tune of 10k), has, they say, surprised and humbled them. The charity believes this is just the start of a movement designed to be a two-way street; one where everybody benefits from the power of collaboration.

Each Patron launches their journey with a one-to-one consultation with the charity’s expert team to discover opportunities that are in sync with their own goals and values. They’re also given the chance to cherry-pick the support they want to offer and crucially to receive from the charity.  That can be via big brand-building initiatives like Age Concern’s 7.5 tonne, 56 sq metre mobile support wagon which, with the help of the utility companies Electricity North West, United Utilities and Cadent Gas, has had a complete refit and now goes out on the road, parking up at supermarkets and local events and transforming into an advice centre complete with private booths for confidential chat. “But it can, too, be something as simple as a site visit to help businesses improve the environment and welcoming atmosphere for customers living with or caring for someone with dementia,” says the charity’s CEO Suzanne Carr. “It can involve dementia training workshops for customer service call handlers so they can more easily spot signs of distress or dementia and know how to provide a better experience for that customer. That in itself can be life transforming.” And feedback indicates it reduces the handler’s own anxiety while increasing their job satisfaction in return.

“The breadth of knowledge we have is phenomenal and we want to share it,” adds Suzanne Carr. “Patrons are seeing they don’t have to be in the business of ageing or dementia to benefit.  Our meeting at Worden Park this week aims to give our Patrons space to talk to each other about what they are learning and what they want to do next.”

Contact Age Concern Central Lancashire if you’d like to find out more about becoming a Patron. You can also seek them out at the Business Expo in Preston’s Guildhall on the 24th of September (they have two stands and, among other things, will be selling their 40th anniversary beer and running taster business workshops). The charity is also planning a Future of Ageing Conference in the Spring of 2022. Details and opportunities for businesses to be announced.