All About LINK
There are about 40 LINK Good Neighbour Schemes throughout Wiltshire and the concept has spread far and wide beyond the County’s boundaries. But it all started in Wiltshire in Box in 1979.
HOW DID LINK START?
A local GP, Dr John McQuitty, who had been educated at Monkton Combe School and then at St Andrews University, wanted to return to the Bath area after his GP training and joined the Box medical practice in 1973. During the very harsh winter of 1978/9, Dr McQuitty saw the real difficulties faced particularly by the elderly, the infirm and those with limited resources or access to transport in the rural community. He believed that providing practical help to this group of residents was an important part of the overall patient care that he and his colleagues could give.
Dr McQuitty reviewed the practical needs that he saw in the local community with a patient at the practice, Jacky Nicholas, who shared his concerns. They worked together to identify the nature and extent of the problems and ways of addressing them. The idea of a volunteer service was born and in the week before the August Bank Holiday in 1979, Dr McQuitty met Jacky Nicholas to discuss getting more people involved in the visiting that Jacky had started doing for him earlier that year.
Tragically, Dr McQuitty died suddenly of a brain tumour on that Bank Holiday Monday. As a memorial to him, Jacky continued to pursue the formation of the community project and it is thanks to her skill, hard work, enthusiasm and the commitment of those she gathered around her that LINK has developed into the organisation it is today. With the support of the Box Parish Council and the WI, the first committee was put together, meeting on 3rd December 1979 to decide on the objectives of the organisation. These were very simply stated as “to assist the lonely and sick and to additionally run errands”. A meeting was held to recruit volunteers and Jacky Nicholas became the first co-ordinator and Chair of Box LINK, a position she held for 10 years. Dr McQuitty’s wife,(Dr Janet Bjorn), became honorary President at the first AGM in November 1980, a position she still holds today.
Box, Rudloe & Colerne LINK owes a great debt of gratitude to Dr John McQuitty, Jacky Nicholas and to all those early volunteers and supporting organisations without whom LINK would not be what it is today.
The name was adopted after a meeting held with an existing LINK organisation in Bath that had similar aims and in 1980 the area that LINK covered was extended beyond Box to cover Colerne and Rudloe.
The name suggests the main role that the organisation fulfils, that of linking up those who need help of various kinds with those who can provide it.
HOW IS THE SERVICE FUNDED?
LINK achieved charitable status in October 1981, allowing the committee to apply for grant funding, but most of the money needed to run the service came, and still comes, from voluntary donations from those who use the service and from fund raising activities.
LINK’S ROLE IN THE COMMUNITY
Right from the outset, the aims of LINK were simple: to support the needs of the community in the immediate locality. In its first year of operation, LINK received 30 calls for help. That has now risen to around 1500 annually and finding volunteers to carry out that number of jobs falls to the co-ordinators who each man the telephone in rotation for 3-4 days at a time. LINK aims to be the “good neighbour” for people who, in modern times, cannot always call on their neighbours for help.
Being a LINK volunteer, a co-ordinator, or a coffee morning helper (coffee mornings are held in Box as social events and for fund raising) has also provided a valuable opportunity for countless numbers of people over the years to do something positive for their communities.