Husband Chris, managing director of LV Shipping in Middlesbrough, had fundraised for Daisy Chain through the company as well as entering a team in the annual Boat Race.
Eileen had also been a personal tutor to the daughter of care team leader Julie Vickers throughout her time at school.
Says Eileen, “Julie recruited me. She just said ‘I am having you’. That was six years ago and I am still there.”
Eileen volunteers in the Thursday morning crèche and one of the after-school social clubs. With seven grandchildren whom she regularly looks after, it’s certainly a retirement revolving around children.
“I love spending time with kids, it makes me happy which is why I like Daisy Chain so much,” she smiles.
Eileen taught food and textiles at Ian Ramsey CE Academy in Stockton where there were a number of children with special needs, “Children with different needs would respond well to food classes because they could get up and move round the classroom, they didn’t have to sit still.” Eileen found it easy to build up a rapport with the youngsters and inspire them to enjoy learning.
“As soon as I retired I knew I wanted to give something back to the community and to continue that work but without having to stand on my feet all day every day which was exhausting.”
Over the years, Eileen did all kinds of volunteering for Daisy Chain including fundraising, bag packing, “you name it,” she grins. “It was good to see how things operated and understand that in some small way, you are making a contribution to helping families affected by autism. Sometimes you wonder how families cope and you can see how they depend on Daisy Chain for a break, for somewhere to go where everyone understands them and for support and advice.
“Sometimes it is just a short amount of time but it is a break. When volunteering your time contributes to that, it makes you feel what you are doing is very worthwhile and you are continuing to contribute to society.”
Supporting the youngsters and seeing them progress is also important to Eileen, “It’s a huge privilege to be there when a child who has been non-verbal speaks for the first time. It’s a real wow moment when you can be there to see and hear it happen.
“Children’s development is my main motivation, seeing them growing, coping and learning. I particularly love being in crèche because the developments you see there are immense. You suddenly look back and realise there have been no meltdowns for a long time because you have grown to know the child and support them and the child is comfortable and has learned to deal with the environment.
“It’s lovely to see the parents coming in too when they know they are going to have a couple of hours to be able to sit and talk to other people in similar situations.
“For me, as a volunteer, I get such a lot back, it’s not just what you give. I would encourage anyone to give volunteering a go.”
And Eileen does – a former colleague asked her about volunteering with Daisy Chain, “I was straight in there telling him to give it a go. I knew he would be fantastic, especially with the older boys. Also, Daisy Chain looks after its volunteers – there’s never any pressure, it is a very welcoming environment and that just makes you want to help even more.”
Tony Carroll took Eileen at her word and he is now volunteering with Daisy Chain on the employability scheme.
Eileen concludes, “There’s nothing like a good run around soft play to keep you active.”