Carpet Cleaners Support St Giles

Knight & Doyle at St Giles Hospice
(L-R) Knight & Doyle Partners Steve Winkles and Richard Doyle with St Giles Head of Fundraising Chloe Herbert

Aldridge based Knight & Doyle Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning has teamed up with St Giles Hospice to help fund its vital care services for local families.

Knight & Doyle are now corporate supporters of St Giles pledging to donate more than £2,500 to the hospice each year.

The business is also offering St Giles Hospice lottery players a 10% discount through the charity’s Promise Card scheme.

Knight & Doyle, which offers residential and commercial carpet cleaning services across Lichfield, Aldridge and Walsall has  rebranded its vans to promote their support of St Giles and will feature its logo in marketing materials to further raise awareness of the hospice.

Rich Doyle, partner in Knight & Doyle, said: “We wanted to support a local charity and when we looked at St Giles Hospice and the work that it does, we knew we had found the right cause. When we heard about the support patients get in the community and bereavement services on offer to patients’ families, we realised that St Giles is not just a place where people go to die – it’s so much more than that. By helping a vital local charity like St Giles, we can give a little back to support local people.”

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles, said “In a tough year which has been so hard for everyone, it’s absolutely wonderful to receive this support from Knight & Doyle, businesses and charities alike have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic so their generosity is particularly welcome and inspiring right now, and our message to all of our supporters is that we’ve never needed you more than we need you today.”


Tracing Family Histories

tracing family history
Sgt Thomas Wilkes

Tracing family histories is a fun hobby but for some people it becomes a passion. Maybe its because learning about our family helps us understand our place in the world. In the digital age there has never been so much information available to the public. This has resulted in the birth of a new industry devoted to helping us find the old records we need.  I’m sure you will have seen the ads on TV. But rather than get lost in data, why not just ask people.  Whether that’s family members or local history groups. For example, talk to older relatives. They will know family names and previous addresses. They will also know family stories, which will give you the first clues in your  search.

Sam Harvey posted on the Aldridge History Group Facebook page because she needed local information. She lives in South Yorkshire and had found that her family was living in Aldridge in the 1830s.  Following a phone call we featured her in our magazines.  Hilary Wilkes was also looking for information on her family history. Regarding her grandfather Sgt Thomas Wikes (pictured) who had lived in Walsall. We also featured her story in our January magazines.

How We Help Trace Family Histories

We will be having a regular feature in our printed magazines to help people tracing family histories. So if you would like to tell your story and get some local help, email Please let us have your phone number and a brief overview of who you are looking to trace. We can also share your Facebook posts.

Top Tips For Tracing Your Family Tree

  1. Ask Family Members
  2. There are online tools, census and registers
  3. Use other people’s research
  4. Use the free online Births, Marriages & Deaths directories
  5. Search parish records and visit churchyards
  6. Ask for information on social media
  7. Get in touch with Pioneer Magazines & Great Barr Gazette

Below we have listed some websites and social media groups to get you started. We would love to hear from you if we can help you trace your family tree.

Useful Websites/Social Media Groups

Aldridge History Group

Walsall Places, People, Pictures and History

Yours locally

Editor Great Barr Gazette


Are You A Resident Of Walsall In Need Of Support?

Walsall Community MagazineWould you like someone to talk to?

Making Connections Walsall is a friendly service for people in Walsall that aims to address loneliness and social isolation and other issues that you may be facing.

How does it work?

There are lots of groups, organisations and clubs in Walsall which can support the health and well-being of local people. However, people often don’t know about them. Referrals are processed by the West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) who will connect you to your local hub organisation.

The social connector will contact you and they will discuss with you the types of activities you enjoy and will help you identify not only activities, but projects and services available in your community to support you.

Who is eligible?

– Residents of all ages within Walsall
– Those that are experiencing hardship, loneliness and isolation.
– Families, individuals and older people
– This service is about helping and supporting people to overcome the barriers that are affecting them, providing a listening ear and a helping hand

To discuss or make a referral, please contact: 0121 380 6690

You will be contacted by your local hub within 3 working days. A telephone assessment of your needs will be done, or a face to face assessment if Covid guidelines allow. For more information visit:

Tackling Loneliness Locally

Aldridge MagazineTackling lonliness locally is difficult in a normal year. The onset of winter, dark evenings and Christmas are when many people, especially the elderly, feel loneliness and isolation most acutely. Before the Covid pandemic research was already showing that loneliness and isolation was on the rise.  Now as we enter another national lockdown the impact on the health and well-being of the elderly is incalculable.

Tackling Lonliness Locally

In September 2018 Age UK published their report on Loneliness in Later Life. Follow this link to access the report

Two of the main findings were firstly, there will be a predicted 49% increase in the number of over 50s suffering from loneliness by 2025/2026. Mostly because people are living longer.  Secondly, the research found the risk of being ‘often lonely’ is much higher among people who are widowed, do not have someone to open up to, or are in poor health.

A couple of years ago Walsall Council held a meeting for local residents. The over-reliance on the internet as a source of information was identified as an issue.  At The Pioneer and Great Barr Gazette we agree. If you are not on the internet or IT savvy, this can lead to feeling isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. Yes, we do have our website, but we are passionate about our printed community magazines. We know our magazines provide a life-line of information for many of the elderly residents of Aldridge, Walsall and across our area.

Covid-19 has made 2020 a horrible year.  The cancellation of clubs and events. The day care services provided by organisations such as the Stan Ball Centre in Bloxwich, disrupted. Many of which have only just re-opened, has been a grave cause for concern. People, especially the elderly and those caring for others, rely on these activities for companionship and support.

Help Is At Hand

We believe it is our mission to inform and involve everyone of all ages, but especially the elderly, in what is going on in our local community. Throughout the Covid pandemic we have published articles on many local support groups. Such as Linking Lives Aldridge and Making Connections Walsall and how they have adapted to deliver their services either on the phone or in Covid-safe ways. We’ve also promoted community groups such as the Anvil Chorus in Great Barr and The Aldridge Shed to name but two.

The Community Support organisations in our local area have been outstanding in reaching out the vulnerable and elderly. Here are a few organisations you can contact for help. You can always phone us on 01922 660022 and we will signpost you to someone who can help you.

Linking Lives Aldridge – a befriending service offering friendship and support across Aldridge. Email or call 07307 865973

Making Connections Walsall – aiming to address loneliness and social isolation and other issues you may be facing. To discuss or make a referral ring 0121 380 6690

The Stan Ball Centre – a community centre for older and vulnerable adults operated by the local charity Bloxwich Community Partnership. Call 01922 403351

The Aldridge Shed – a UK initiative for people from all walks of life to come together to pursue their interests and hobbies. or contact Barrie on 07985 188256

If you are feeling lonely please do not suffer in silence, reach out to any of the organisations above and the many others in our area, some are listed on our Communities Directory.  And to all local residents look out for each other and especially the elderly at this challenging time.

Yours locally

Editor Great Barr Gazette

Brother And Sister Stream Concerts To Entertain Care Homes Residents

Streetly Advertising Magazine
Priya and Arun

Walsall siblings Arun and Priya Saini have spent the spring and summer entertaining elderly and vulnerable people living in care homes by staging online concerts.

The duo, from Streetly, have picked up their violins and streamed dozens of recitals to keep care home residents entertained while they were in lockdown, unable to receive visits from their own family and friends.

The idea came after their mother Jyoti, a clinical pharmacist, had to visit homes as part of swabbing teams at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everyone was in full PPE, which is disconcerting for residents when they can’t see anyone’s faces,” she said. “When I suggested playing for them online, the children were keen to do it and I contacted care homes to see if they were interested.”

The duo – Arun, aged 13, a student at Hydesville Tower School, and 10-year-old Priya, who attends Mayfield School – have played short concerts on Zoom, Skype and Whatsapp to residents as far away as Sunderland.

“Residents have been isolated for so long that we felt it was really important to do something to lift their spirits,” said Jyoti. “It’s not only ensured the children do their violin practise, but also helped elderly people enjoy something a little different, as well as support the hard working carers who look after them whilst sometimes being away from their families.”

They are also raising money for The Care Workers’ Charity and have already raised £645. To help them raise more, visit

Linking Lives Aldridge: Long-lasting Friendships

Aldridge MagazineLinking Lives Aldridge is a new project set up in October 2019 by Aldridge Methodist Church. When the Minister, Bev, arrived in Aldridge at the end of 2011, she very quickly realised that there is a real issue around loneliness and social isolation in the Aldridge community.

“The life expectancy in Aldridge is ten years higher than in other parts of the borough,” says Bev. “A quarter of the population is aged over 65, and almost two thirds of those are living alone. Many older people don’t have family living close by, many have acted as carers for their partners and have become isolated through their caring role, which has resulted in them losing confidence and the ability and opportunity to interact with others.”

Experts agree that social isolation is the biggest challenge facing our ageing society and many older people fear loneliness more than lack of money or deteriorating health.

Research has shown that loneliness and isolation are harmful to our health. The ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ states that almost a fifth of older people only have contact from their families, friends and neighbours once a week, and for a tenth of older people it is less than once a month. Age UK research showed that for two fifths of older people, the television is their main company. Loneliness has been shown to be as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and how lonely you are this year will determine how depressed you are next year.

Social isolation and loneliness began to be recognised as an issue across the whole of the borough and towards the end of 2015 Walsall Public Health appointed Angela Aitken as Senior Programme Development and Commissioning Manager with a remit that included older people. Bev met with Angela in October 2015 to share her knowledge about Aldridge. The Health & Wellbeing Strategy of Walsall Council for 2017-20 resulted in the setting up of Making Connection Walsall (MCW). MCW provides older people in Walsall with support to build their social networks and engage in community activities. MCW also provides the health community and social care professionals with a single route of referral into appropriate local community based social support networks.

Aldridge Magazine
Elaine – Linking Lives Aldridge

Bev has been in regular contact with Carol and Mags at the MCW East hub, based at Manor Farm, since it was set up and soon became aware that the referrals coming in showed that there was a great need for a befriending service in Aldridge. Aldridge Methodist Church applied for funding and once that was secured the role of the Project Coordinator was advertised, interviews undertaken, and Elaine was appointed to the role.

Linking Lives Aldridge is a member of the Linking Lives UK network of befriending schemes who work primarily with churches and Christian agencies to provide the support, advice and resources required to set up a project in local communities. Jeremy Sharpe, the National Director, who delivered training to Elaine & the Management Committee, and then to the first volunteers, says: “We are so delighted that Linking Lives Aldridge is now up and running and reaching out to those isolated older people in Aldridge.”

What Linking Lives Aldridge does is exactly what it says on the tin – it links someone who would like to be befriended to a volunteer who would like to befriend. Elaine explains how it works.

“When we receive a referral, I make contact to help to understand the Link Friend’s needs. Our volunteers, who are vetted and trained, are then matched with a Link Friend, considering personality, experience, interests, availability and geography. At an introductory visit, I introduce the volunteer to an assigned Link Friend in the Link Friend’s home. Assuming this meeting goes well, the Link Friend and volunteer will then agree regular ongoing visits. Visits usually happen once a week/fortnight for around an hour or so and it takes the form of informal conversations over a cup of tea/coffee and the aim is for the volunteer to provide crucial support to their Link Friend.”

This has been quite a change in role for Elaine, who was previously a teaching assistant.

“I love stepping into other people’s worlds and finding ways the project can help,” explains Elaine. “I love the job because it’s helping people, but on a personal level it feels really good to know I am doing something that makes a difference to people. Linking Lives is not a team, it’s a family and the partnerships are not clinical; they’re a network of friendships that you know will last a lifetime. That hour a week that the volunteers give makes such a difference to someone who is lonely. I sometimes feel like a teacher standing on a playground watching friendships blossom.”

She goes on to say that parts of the job are ‘gut-wrenching and hard, because when you do step into someone’s world and see the pain and agony they face, it breaks your heart.’

Linking Lives Aldridge has responded to the Covid-19 crisis by changing from face to face befriending to telephone befriending.

“We put an appeal on facebook for volunteers,” says Bev. “Aldridge responded brilliantly, with over 60 people volunteering for telephone befriending and to pick up prescriptions and shopping for people. We are working closely with MCW and receiving referrals from them.”

Linking Lives AldridgeWhen asked for feedback about his Link Friend calls, one of the new volunteers described it as ‘a gift from Covid-19’ and one of the new Link Friends said ‘the phone-calls are the highlight of my week and I feel much brighter afterwards.’

“We couldn’t run the project without our wonderful volunteers,” says Bev.

Her hope is that people the relationships developed between Link Friends and befrienders during this awful covid-19 crisis will be relationships that will be long lasting.

If you would like to know more please get in touch with Elaine or Bev on  07307 865973, or by email on Follow us on facebook @linkinglivesaldridge

Bloxwich Community Partnership Make Me Smile Project

Bloxwich Charity
Make Me Smile Project – Bloxwich Community Partnership

Bloxwich Community Partnership is a local charity based in Bloxwich and Blakenall. We run two community centres, Stan Ball Centre and Palace Play Shop Eat.

Our services changed massively on 23rd March with the closure of our normal activities and the development of the Making Connections Covid 19 Community Response Hub for the North of Walsall.  This service delivered on behalf of Walsall Council now provides vulnerable and isolated people with shopping delivery of basic provisions, fresh meat, fruit, vegetables and cleaning and hygiene products, help with medication and prescriptions, befriending and welfare calls and for those most in need suffering financial hardship free food parcels. To contact this service call the Stan Ball Centre directly on 01922 403351 or email

In addition the ‘Make Me Smile’ project is a partnership working with local primary schools and funded by Big Lottery Community Fund putting together and distributing 300 wellbeing packs.  This project is putting letters, drawings and decorated craft items produced by key worker children in schools together with magazines, adult colouring books, puzzle books and other items to help stimulate, engage and bring a smile to the faces of isolated and vulnerable people.

Follow us on Facebook for more information

Linking Lives Aldridge Can You Help?

Linking Lives AldridgeCan you help an elderly person in Aldridge by referring them to Linking Lives?

Linking Lives Aldridge is a befriending service offering friendship and support across Aldridge. Specifically aimed at helping elderly people in Aldridge, this project is run by Aldridge Methodist Church and friend of The Pioneer, the Reverend Bev Boden.

Linking Lives exists to help older people suffering from loneliness and social isolation, which was a huge problem even before the lock-down owing to the coronavirus crisis! Experts agree that many older people fear loneliness more than lack or money or poor health.

They recently put out a call for volunteers and were amazed by the response from local people in Aldridge. The immediate needs of fetching prescriptions and shopping for people already befriended by the charity have been sorted.  Our own staff here at The Pioneer are amongst those who have volunteered.

Linking Lives has the capacity to help more elderly people in Aldridge. You could put yourself forward or refer someone you know. Usually they offer a 1:1 visiting service, but this has for the time being switched to telephone befriending, but people still get a dedicated volunteer who is matched by taking into account their personality, experience and interests.

Please or telephone 07307 865973

For information on other Community Groups please click here.

Walsall Needs Volunteers

Walsall MagazineA Message From John Morris, Walsall Council

Promoting Neighbourliness and helping those who are isolated.

Can you or someone you know volunteer and support anyone in your neighbourhood who is in isolation or vulnerable, or could be in the foreseeable future?

In response to the current situation around Coronavirus (Covid-19), Walsall Council and partners are working together in readiness to support our community, especially the elderly and vulnerable residents.

If you as an organisation or an individual would like to help with this by volunteering (for example, shopping, picking up medications, etc.) or providing resources (for example, storage facilities, kitchen facilities, etc.), please contact me as soon as possible on the details below.

Please share this message with others who may also want to give their support.

Thank you.

John Morris
Locality Manager – East
Resources and Transformation
Walsall Council
Civic Centre – 1st Floor Zone 1b
Darwall Street
Walsall WS1 1TP

Tel: 01922 653711
Mobile: 07852 421421