Long-standing volunteers step down at sight loss club

The Marsh House Coffee Group retirement party for, seated from left, Jessie Dyson, Ann Simmons and Margaret Penfold. Picture: Derek Martin DM1850025a
The Marsh House Coffee Group retirement party for, seated from left, Jessie Dyson, Ann Simmons and Margaret Penfold. Picture: Derek Martin DM1850025a

Marsh House Coffee Group is run by 4Sight Vision Support for people with sight loss in the Southwick area.

Group leader Ann Simmons has been involved for around 20 years, Jessie Dyson for around 30 years and Margaret Penfold for at least 13 years.

It was thought their departure, for various reasons, would mean the group would close, so a retirement party was organised yesterday as a final send off.

But the seven members were so keen for the group to continue, one of their relatives has offered to run it.

Ann said: “I would have carried on except I was due to go into hospital for a hip operation. One of the ladies who has been doing it for years was going on holiday and the other couldn’t get there unless she was picked up, so that took her out.

“We decided we would just have to finish the group because we didn’t know anyone who would help.

“Finally, a niece of one of the ladies said she would volunteer and although she had never done anything like it before, she is willing to take it on. Once I get over my hip surgery, I don’t mind coming back to help now I know that.”

Jessie originally ran the group with another lady and Ann started helping out when she fell ill, then stayed on when the lady died.

The group meets at Marsh House, in Park Lane, Southwick. It is a social club for people who are registered with sight loss and for many, it is a rare opportunity to get out and meet others in a similar situation.

Ann said: “Particularly when people are first registered, it is a bit of a shock, but when they meet people in the same position, it makes them feel a bit happier about it.

“It is a case of speaking to people who have had the problem for months or years and then they accept it better, so that is partly the idea.”

Numbers attending have declined from the peak of around 20 but the current members said they liked going to the group and did not want it to close.

Ann said: “To be honest, they just come in and talk and all we do is make a coffee and serve it with biscuits.

“We always have a raffle, it is nothing serious, and we play bingo with dominoes. It is quite a fun way of doing it and it works, as dominoes have raised dots so those who can’t seem them can feel them. They all have a laugh.”