The Befriending Scheme in Haverhill is saying goodbye to a friend and colleague after 15 years.
The group gathered at the Chalkstone Community Centre on Friday, August 21, for a summer sports day, at which they bid farewell to Marilyn Bennett, who has been with the Befriending Scheme for 15 years.
The Befriending Scheme provides friendship and learning opportunities for adults from vulnerable groups, including those with mental health needs and older people, as well as members with learning disabilities.
They also offer various volunteering opportunities with extra support for those who need it.
Marilyn said: “I came here to volunteer. I needed a purpose and a reason and I was brought along by a friend who worked for the scheme and I never looked back.”
Marilyn spent two years volunteering with the group before she became a full member of staff.
“It completely changed my life,” she said. “It gave me a sense of self when I got to see the guys having fun and having a great time.”
Shirley Moore, CEO and founder of the Befriending Scheme, said: “Marilyn has been magnificent since she became a member of the group.
“She inspires people, without a shadow of a doubt. The love she shows the members here is genuine and they all love her too.”
To say goodbye to Marilyn, who is leaving the group for health reasons, the members of the Befriending Scheme put on a medley of song and dance numbers, with one member performing Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance.
There was more dancing as tearful members approached Marilyn to say their goodbyes and there were cakes, drinks, and other refreshments, which were provided by the local branch of Tesco.
Marilyn said: “I will definitely come back to see everyone. I’m a different person today from who I was 15 years ago.
“What ever I gave them [the friendship group], they’ve given me back three-fold.
“It has been part of my life and, over the years, I have watched them grow as people. I’ll miss that.
“They’ve given me a lot and, I like to think, I’ve been part of their lives as well.”