According to Lincolnshire County Council, the number of people aged 65 and above living in South Kesteven is expected to rise over the next ten years from 25,560 to 40,500.
This 37 per cent increase will make the work of Evergreen Care Trust ever more invaluable as the charity enters its second decade against a backdrop of plunging local government budgets.
In Lincolnshire alone, county council expenditure is expected to have declined by £150 million between 2011 and 2019, with support for older and vulnerable adults alone having dropped by £38 million over the last four years.
It begs the question then - where would elderly people in Bourne and Stamford struggling with loneliness, isolation and depression be without Australian-born Louise Marsh and her team of volunteers.
Louise said: “The idea of Evergreen Care Trust happened about 12 and a half years ago when I was working with Adult Social Services in Stamford where I had been for about six months as a community care officer.
“I became increasingly aware of areas of need that weren’t being addressed by the statutory agencies (NHS, Age UK, South Kesteven District Council) because it was outside of their remit.
“I spoke to my practice manager and asked him whether we could perhaps approach the local churches to see if we could get a group of volunteers who could help with things we weren’t able to help with.
“My practice manager agreed to that and we invited the church leaders in Stamford to a meeting where we discussed some of the things we weren’t able to do, but a group of volunteers could do by working together.
“For two-and-a-half years, the Churches Together Volunteers provided a really good resource for the Older Persons Team in Stamford with little interventions that meant a great deal to people who perhaps didn’t have any support or any family nearby to help.”
After showing steady growth, Louise resigned from her role with Stamford Social Services Older Persons Team in May 2005 to set up Evergreen Care Trust, providing domestic, laundry and home help to people living alone, without extended family nearby or those discharged from hospital.
From such small beginnings, the charity now offers up to 11 different services, from Home Support, Clean Team and meal deliveries to advocacy, befriending and chaplaincy support.
Louise said: “We think the little interventions actually help people to hold onto their independence for a lot longer.
“Sometimes the dilemma senior citizens face is ‘if I get a bit of help, I’m losing my independence’, but I believe that little bit of help will sustain their independence which means they will continue to cope well in their homes and in the community.”
About two years after Evergreen established its work in Stamford, it expanded into Bourne after similar shortcomings in services for the elderly and vulnerable were found in the town.
Sandra Pratt, who set up an Evergreen office in Bourne, said: “I worked in our Stamford office initially, building up the Home Support service and other work which was increasing rapidly.
“We took on some more staff and, at some point, Evergreen opened an office at Wake House in Bourne where we ran the work from.
“It was a place where people from Bourne could come in, rather than take a trip to Stamford, until the trustees made a decision that it was more cost-effective to manage things centrally from Stamford.”
About 600 people are supported by Evergreen’s 220 volunteers across Bourne and Stamford, with just over 50 staff overseen by Louise, as chief executive officer, and Suzanne Wheatley.
Evergreen recently launched its Angel service, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week support for clients in case of emergencies such as accidents, falls and illness.
Louise said: “We don’t take Government and lottery funding, so we are financed through fantastic public support and the high percentage of volunteer activity that keeps the costs down.
“We invite people to become a Friend of Evergreen for £1 a month which helps us with our ongoing costs and we have also launched a campaign in our anniversary year to raise £10,000.”
* Evergreen Care Trust has won strong backing from Nick Boles MP whose Grantham and Stamford parliamentary constituency also includes Bourne.
Mr Boles said: “Louise Marsh is one of those very rare people – a born leader with a clear mission and an ability to inspire other people, but with no desire for personal gain and glory.
“Whenever I meet Louise I am humbled because she seems to be free of the petty vanities and personal ambitions of mere politicians.
“Instead, she has dedicated her life to helping other people for little or no reward.
“But Louise has not contented herself with doing this in a small way - she has built an organisation, devised a strategy, recruited a team, raised money, developed new services and expanded her operations to cover new places and meet new needs.
“Our communities are immeasurably better off as a result and governments, both local and national, have lots to learn from the example of Evergreen.”