Evergreen Care Trust founder to change role to share learnings from Stamford charity with other communities as new care manager is appointed
This week marked 16 years since the formation of a Stamford institution.
Louise Marsh was sitting in her car on a May Bank Holiday Monday in 2005 pondering how she could best support elderly and vulnerable people in the community.
A former nurse, Louise reached out to volunteers from across churches in Stamford who wanted to demonstrate God’s love in practical ways - and the Evergreen Care Trust Stamford and District was born.
Today, the charity is well known and well loved by people across the town, even by those who have never had cause to make use of one of its many services, which range from paid-for home support to free befriending and chaplaincy.
But Louise’s role is changing. At the beginning of April, Julie Mair, who has been care services manager for the trust since 2017, was appointed director and registered care manager.
But, far from stepping away from Evergreen, Louise is turning her attention to spreading the lessons that have been learnt at the trust to more communities - and to leading a change in social care nationally.
“It is a major move and it’s very exciting,” Louise explained.
“In the past few years there has been lots of interest from other communities, close by such as Grantham but also coastal locations such as Dorset and Devon, in how they can expand their social care offerings.
“We have come a long way since we were established 16 years ago.
“The little intervention projects and services that we have been able to establish, often in partnership with other agencies, was always part of our original vision.
“But now I can share our vision with everyone.”
Reflecting on the anniversary, Louise said: “I felt ‘called’ to do what we were doing in Stamford and looking back, I recognised it was needed everywhere.
“It has always been something at the back of mind to develop it further but I never could have imagined Evergreen growing to what it has become today.
“It has been a wonderful journey and I have worked with so many amazing people.
“I am intrigued about this next chapter and excited. I know we can make a genuine difference to so many people’s lives, which is a huge privilege.”
Already Evergreen has spread further afield - this year will mark the 10th year of Evergreen Sleaford.
But it is not just Lincolnshire market towns that can sustain such a charity.
Evergreen Care Bexley was established around seven years ago, serving a densely populated London borough.
Both were started in the same way - by drawing volunteers from the church community and growing from there. They operate autonomously but share the same mission to help those who are isolated or vulnerable, and the same branding.
And there’s never been a more appropriate time to expand. According to Louise, the pandemic has seen a change nationally in how important social care is, and the difference it can make.
“Loneliness and social isolation have always been huge national issues, and social care provision is a national issue.
“The covid pandemic has really highlighted the disparty between health and social care, with social care being like the poor cousin. Now there is much more focus on how they work together in tandem and that is just one of the many positive things to come out of the pandemic.
“I think another good thing is that there’s been a refocus on what is important both now and in the future, and that human life is important.
“We have seen everybody, no matter who they are, struggle and people are a lot more empathetic towards those who are lonely and vulnerable. There has been a huge groundswell of people wanting to help and now is the time to build on that.”
The pandemic has provided challenges though for all charities and during 2020, Evergreen Care Trust lost about £75,000 income.
But also, Louise was heartened by the overwhelming support from the community. Volunteers rallied with more than 300 people offering support during the first two lockdowns, as well as other groups springing up, in Stamford and across the country, to offer vital support.
One of the strengths of Evergreen, Louise says, is that it not only recognises the support it needs to give to its clients, but also the support it needs to give to its army of staff and volunteers.
Louise said: “I am looking forward to being able to share how we have looked after our own carers with other communities.
“No matter what community it is, I have really learned that there are many people who are fearful about growing older and what that may mean.
“Our model is about making sure people know that they are important and that they are valued.”
Asked if it had the potential to grow into there being an Evergreen in every community, Louise replied: “Wouldn’t that just be wonderful?
“It would be lovely to leave a legacy like that but just to sow these seeds in these communities is amazing. Bit by bit, we’re making a difference.”
Through her work with Evergreen, Louise has also connected with the University of Lincoln and is now joining their research team for health and social care. She hopes this will enable her to make a major difference to social care on a national level.
“We are taking the Evergreen vision and mission to a different level.”
But it means taking a step back from her day-to-day management role in Stamford.
While she remains a founding trustee, Julie Mair will be stepping into Louise’s shoes.
Louise said: “I am completely supportive of Julie, and the fantastic team of staff and volunteers she has behind her.
“Julie is caring, compassionate and professional, and she shares our vision. I have absolutely no doubt that Stamford is in very safe hands.”
Julie, meanwhile, is looking forward to the challenging of continuing what Louise has started in Stamford for the next 16 years and beyond.
“Louise has not only founded this charity but she has made it such a hub of the community and made a difference to so many people’s lives.” said Julie.
“For her to feel she can hand over the baton to me just feels such a privilege and it will absolutely be in safe hands. I believe it will continue to go from strength to strength and evolve as the community evolves.”
Julie said that among the positives during a very challenging year had been the trust being awarded the Covid-19 Bounceback Award at the Mercury Business Awards 2020, as well as the outpouring of support there was for the charity.
“Even though there were challenges, I look back and reflect that it was a good year but as we hopefully come towards the end of the pandemic, we can start returning to some kind of normality and I am really looking forward to driving things forward, and for the staff, volunteers and the community to really see the enthusiasm I have for this.
“For me, it is not just a job, it is a vocation. I really want to make a difference to people’s lives and continue Louise’s vision.”
n Find out more about the charity at www.evergreencare.org.uk