WHEN Mary Lyons and Ethel Gray started going to Kipling Court day centre, it offered a welcome break.

“We both had poorly husbands and spent most of our time caring for them. The centre gave us a breather, and some time to ourselves,” says Ethel.

Before long, the pair became friends and found themselves organising activities and entertainment at the centre and helping other people there, many of them residents at the surrounding Kipling Court sheltered housing complex in Greengates.

Over the years, Mary and Ethel have been tireless volunteers at the day centre - and a quarter of a century later, they’re still there. All the more impressive when you consider that Mary is 97 and Ethel is 92!

In honour of their hard work, the ladies were presented with gifts, flowers and certificates by the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Zafar Ali, at an event celebrating Kipling Court’s 25th anniversary.

“I feel overwhelmed - this is lovely. We all work as a team here,” says Ethel, who has three children, three great grandchildren and a great grandson. “I’ve always helped out, it doesn’t seem like 25 years. The centre is a place of friendship, which is very important as you get older. It brings people together.

“Over the years we’ve organised all sorts of events - games, bingo, entertainment. We both used to dance. Being a volunteer is a wonderful way of getting involved, and helping others.

“If you can do a good turn for somebody, do it. It’s what life is all about.”

Mary, who has five children, eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, says volunteering has helped to keep her active, well into her nineties. “It keeps you mobile,” she says. “When we get there in the morning we help to make toast and tea, we organise crafts, games, sing-alongs, we go on trips. More and more people have come along over the years, as the centre has become more popular.”

Adds Mary: “Volunteering does you a lot of good, especially if you live on your own. Loneliness can be a terrible thing. People talk to us and tell us their worries; we’re all friends here and we support each other.”

Paying tribute to Mary and Ethel, who both live at Kipling Court, Day Centre Co-ordinator Annice Brearley said: “These two ladies are amazing. Ethel does our raffles - she can sell anything - and she has people half her age up dancing. Everyone adores Mary, she can talk to anyone.”

Kipling Court day centre, run by Housing & Care 21, opens twice a week, providing a range of activities and social events for older people from sheltered accommodation and care homes. Around 100 people from Greengates and surrounding areas attend.

“Some are socially isolated, some are carers and some have dementia. Everyone fits in, and people make great friendships,” says Annice. “We do lots of fundraising and we have great support from the community. People are always bringing raffle prizes down.

“We raised £1,253 at a recent Ladies’ Night at the Northcote Club in Undercliffe, and 27 local businesses donated raffle items. The money went towards our 25th celebrations and a trip to Chester Zoo. The Oddfellows Arms on Harrogate Road has provided meals for 17 years, and never put their prices up. And Morrisons at Five Lane Ends has been a big supporter over the years and donated food for our celebration event. Community spirit is alive and well round here!”

Other long-serving volunteers were also presented with flowers at last Thursday’s anniversary celebration.

“It is our volunteers who keep this place going. We have 12 in total, they're at the centre of everything here,” says Assistant Co-ordinator Mary Pickard.

“Some people come initially as carers, then carry on after their spouse or other family member has died. We run 10 trips a year and five-day holidays for carers. “

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Zafar Ali, said he had “learned a great deal” from Mary, Ethel and the other volunteers.

“It’s amazing that, at that age, they still have such energy and community spirit,” he said. “It means a lot to me to meet people who do such wonderful work in our communities. Being here is a joy to me.

“As the Lord Mayor, I am not just someone who sits in an office. I am willing to come and meet people and and they can some and meet me. We are all one community, regardless of faith.

“We are all one Bradford.”

Emma Clayton