OVER the moon – that is how a Rugby woman feels after she was named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for helping the elderly in Rugby to get out of the house, socialise and have fun.
Eileen Borton will be given a prestigious British Empire Medal for ‘services to older people in Rugby’.
The 78-year-old, who runs the Rugby Friendship Club for Senior Citizens, said she was ‘absolutely flabbergasted’ when she found out via a phone call.
“I couldn’t speak,” she said. “I had a letter in November saying my name had been put forward, and I’ve found out since that I was nominated by four of my committee, which I thought was very nice of them.
“I’m just overjoyed about it all at the moment – although I don’t do it for the recognition. It’s something I never ever thought would reach the peak that it has.”
Eileen founded the club in 1997 after she had to retire from her job as a shop retail manager and forecourt buyer at Watford Gap services after 20 years, due to ill health.
She said: “I was in a very demanding full-time job until I was diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition, which left me not able to walk or drive for nearly three years.
“Then when I got better, after treatment and physiotherapy, I felt I wanted to get out and meet people. I missed all the company of work; I’d always been surrounded by people to laugh and joke with, and all of a sudden I was trapped in four walls with nowhere to go.”
She approached the secretary of the Bilton Social Club, where she and partner Tony Hancock were members, and decided to volunteer when it became clear there was no-one available to run events during the daytime.
“They let me have their hall and their bingo machine,” she said. “I financed it myself in the first year, and we’d done so well that the accountant advised me to open my own club and go solo as a separate entity.
“I was repaid all the money I put in, the club’s been solvent since, and we’ve gone on from there.”
Having gone from strength to strength, the 120-member club meets every Thursday for bingo, lunches, quizzes, entertaiment and raffles.
And every month Eileen organises an outing to theatres or restaurants, on shopping trips or out sightseeing.
“All this is subsidised to enable everybody in the club to join in. We have to raise all our own funds, which we do through cake stalls, tombolas, raffles and grocery stalls.
“We also offer two holidays a year. Although we can’t subsidise them, they are affordable and many members say it’s something they wouldn’t do on their own.
“It’s a full-time job – it’s like being back at work again.”
Eileen puts in all this work to allow people to come out, mix with other people and enjoy themselves.
She said: “We want people who are on their own to be able to say ‘I’m going to the theatre today’, or ‘I’m going on a shopping trip with a group of friends’, instead of always being on their own.
“We’re just like a big happy family. Everybody will help each other. We’re there for a bit of moral support. When people are ill we make sure they get a get well card, to show we haven’t forgotten them. And they know if they’re really stuck they can pick the phone up and somebody will help them.
“We’re just there as friends to all meet up, have a laugh and a joke, and just have a good time and get out of the house.
“It makes you feel great to help people who would normally sit at home, who maybe haven’t got family in the area. They know there are people at the end of the phone who can help them.
“Members tell us that when they’re making appointments they always try to avoid a Thursday because that’s their day out. It’s perhaps the only day they get to go out and meet people.”
Eileen says she is is very excited to receive her medal – although there is one potential snag.
“The only thing I’m a bit concerned about is that I know the garden party at Buckingham Palace is in June, and I’ve got a family holiday already booked, and my granddaughter is getting married. So I’ve got a couple of weeks in between, and I’m hoping and praying that’s when I’ll be able to go the the Palace!”
She thanked the club’s committee and members for their support, and everybody who has helped her get the club to where it is.
“And also I’d like to thank Tony, who supports me in everything I do,” she added. “He gets spoiled by the ladies anyway, so I think that’s why he likes doing it!”
Anyone interested in joining the Rugby Friendship Club for Senior Citizens can call Eileen on 01788 553035 to find out more.