1 June 2018
QuarriersFinnart Street Service is a residential care home in Greenock which supports individuals who have epilepsy and/or a learning disability.
Six years ago, life was very different for Pat. A retired firefighter in Greenock, he was spending time volunteering locally when his son saw an advertisement looking for a volunteer befriender which contained a very important question: are you a Morton fan?
Alex, who is supported by Quarriers Finnart Street Service, is a life-long fan of Greenock Morton FC, and wanted a friend to go to matches with him. He wanted a befriender with similar interests to attend his local football team. He was also really keen for male company. He was attending the games with female members of staff however, they were not really interested in the game. So Alex was missing the opportunity to have a chat about who was off side and the referee’s decision being wrong.
As a fellow supporter, Pat jumped at the opportunity. He got in touch with Quarriers and came along to meet Alex, and they quickly became firm friends. Pat and Alex go to see Morton as much as possible, both at home and away. Together, they have travelled across most of Scotland, and, as Alex stresses, they take turns to buy the pies!
Through their friendship, both Pat and Alex have found that their social circle has widened. They have met each other’s families, and Pat says that his friends have become Alex’s friends too, and they all enjoy attending matches together.
Alex has not only made a new friend: Pat’s support has enabled him to do something he loves more often and has opened up opportunities to get out into the community. Alex particularly enjoys taking the bus to football games because he gets to meet lots of new people. Pat says with a laugh that he has been told Alex used to be really quiet, but now he chats to his friends and cheers along with the crowd at games.
Alex has also had the chance to meet several Morton players, including his hero, Peter Weatherson. When Peter presented Alex with a birthday card on the pitch before a match, Pat says Alex was so excited, you would have thought he had won the lottery, and when Peter left the team earlier this year, Alex and Pat attended a celebration dinner and drinks in his honour.
Volunteering has also led to Pat returning to work. Having become a valued member of the team at Finnart Street, he was approached to apply for a position at the nearby Quarriers Octavia Service. He is now a part-time relief worker at the service, but he makes sure that he always has Saturdays free for Alex.
Pat has never looked at his time with Alex as befriending or volunteering: he is simply spending time with his best friend. He cannot recommend volunteering highly enough and believes it is a really good idea to involve people in the community as natural friendships can develop.
Pat is a great ambassador for volunteering and encourages people he meets to volunteer by talking about his own experience. Pat hopes to continue volunteering even when, is his words, he and Alex are going to matches with their walking sticks.