‘YOU’VE got to volunteer as a way to get out of the house!’ – that’s the message of 99-year-old Ron Calverley from Elstead, one of the UK’s oldest charity volunteers.

Ron has helped out at The Clockhouse day centre in Milford for 12 years – and is now the face of a new National Lottery campaign launched to mark ‘Blue Monday’ (January 20).

The soon-to-be-centenarian said about his volunteering: “I come in five days per week to help out in the shop. I began volunteering 12 years ago and absolutely love it, as it gets me out of the house and speaking to people. If it wasn’t for volunteering at The Clockhouse I’d be at home watching telly. Here I can play bingo and keep the chef on his toes playing cribbage!”

The Clockhouse is one of many community projects supported locally by The National Lottery Community Fund, and plays a key role in bringing the community together to address social isolation and loneliness.

Providing relaxed, sociable and stimulating day centre services for people over 50, The Clockhouse has just received more than £20,000 of National Lottery funding to expand further out into the community and engage with families, schools, children and vulnerable groups.

This includes intergenerational afternoon tea parties to give school children the chance to invite grandparents and elderly neighbours along, and extending art classes to include young mothers and pre-school children.

The funding will also be used to continue the centre’s diverse range of activities and entertainment, ranging from arm chair exercises to balance and falls awareness groups, ‘roast and toast lunches’ and drop-in technology groups.

Other services on offer at the centre include hairdressing, chiropody, beauty treatment and an on-site shop for essential items of food and other personal needs. A freshly cooked two course lunch and refreshments are provided five days a week, as is transport using the two Clockhouse minibuses.

With more than 260 members regularly attending The Clockhouse, the organisation relies on an army of 60 volunteers, which not only ensures the centre runs smoothly, but also gives people from across the area the chance to get out of the house, interact with people and make a genuine difference to the lives of others.

Many of its members live alone in rural village communities and often experience isolation and loneliness, and so people have no worries about accessing The Clockhouse by using the two specially adapted minibuses.

Clive Webster, chairman of the trustees at The Clockhouse, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the National Lottery award which will allow us to extend our intergenerational work in the local communities.”

Jon Eastwood, senior head of regional funding at The National Lottery Community Fund, added: “Groups like The Clockhouse are doing a wonderful job bringing people and communities together, helping them find new interests, make friends and thrive. With their ideas, knowledge and passion, this money brightens and changes lives.”