Thank you for being our friends…

They were known as The Golden Girls in the many years they spent volunteering for Daisy Chain and the time and effort the trio put in has been invaluable to helping raise funds.

Audrey Smith, 85, Joan Taylor, 83, and Marion Sedgewick, 79, offered their help to Daisy Chain on the basis that "we would do anything – just not housework," Joan laughs.

Their volunteering offer led to them to spending time helping at Daisy Chain three times a week. One of their favourite jobs was to prepare the merchandise teddy bears for sale. "We had a conveyor belt going," Joan laughs. Audrey says, "Joan cut the ribbons to put on them, I glued the ribbons and Marion put them on the bears. We all enjoyed doing that."

Summer fetes, Christmas fayres, fundraising stalls, virtual horse racing nights, the three friends were at them all. Once a month they made lunch for the Links parent support group. "Christmas dinners in the farmhouse, you name it we cooked it," says Joan.

But there was often a bit of a clash in the kitchen with Audrey and Joan with Marion in the middle as referee. Says Marion, "They both wanted to do things their own way," she smiles. "It was all very friendly but they were both very determined. People used to peep round the door and ask if it was safe to come in when they were going at it."

"We were like the three witches of Eastwick," Joan chips in.

Of the trio, all from Billingham, Joan and Marion have been friends for 50 years then Joan worked with Audrey’s daughter and they got to know her. "I thought she was a bit too posh at first," Joan jokes. "Then I tasted her cakes and knew we would be friends for life."

Audrey recalls, "We started almost at the very beginning when the charity had just been set up by Lesley and for some time we were the only volunteers. We made coffee at the fundraising coffee mornings, we must have sold thousands and thousands of raffle tickets over the years for all kinds of prizes including a car."

Joan adds, "It didn’t always go to plan. One of the years we were cooking Christmas dinner and someone had left the lid up on the Aga in the farmhouse kitchen so there wasn’t enough heat. Dinner was a bit late that year.

"And there was the time Audrey nearly burned the place down setting a duster on fire," Joan grins. "I thought we weren’t going to mention that," Audrey interrupts before explaining, "The French polisher had shown us how to get cup ring stains out of the dining room table by covering it with methylated spirit and setting fire to it, but the duster also caught fire. Good job the room had a fireplace, we managed to throw the duster in there and put it out quickly."

The Golden Girls very quickly enjoyed meeting the families that started to attend Daisy Chain, "We knew little or nothing about autism," Marion explains. Joan adds, "It was quite an eye-opener what the families had to deal with and we saw how Daisy Chain made a real difference in the lives of the children and their parents."

All agree it has been a privilege to be involved from the beginning and watch it grow and flourish over the years. "It was such a friendly place when it set out and it has been brilliant to be part of the story, to see it grow into the important centre it now is for families," says Audrey.

The three Golden Girls eventually had to give up volunteering. "Age got us in the end and we just can’t stand up for long any more," Joan says.

But those good old days were certainly golden years for the Golden Girls. Joan adds, "If Daisy Chain needed help then we would help out, it was one of the best things we ever did – we had so much fun. Lesley started such a wonderful thing and it was wonderful to be part of it."