A life devoted to volunteering in Haslemere

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Elaine Maggs received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours in 2014

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ELAINE MAGGS devoted a life of volunteering to Haslemere and Waverley.

Elaine’s mother was a Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) volunteer and Elaine, who was born on July 26, 1945, started helping her when she was still at school. In spite of successfully completing a three-year course in photography at Guildford Art School, she was not interested in paid work once her son arrived in 1975.

She moved to Haslemere with her husband, an accountant working in the city, and two young children in 1985. The first thing she did was spend six months redecorating the large Edwardian house they had purchased.

She started to deliver meals on wheels for the WRVS in Haslemere, and soon became the organiser for Haslemere, and then Waverley, responsible for recruiting volunteers and issuing the weekly rotas.

Her warm personality meant volunteers seldom left. One volunteer said: "I would have given up Meals on Wheels years ago if it hadn’t been for Elaine."

Her responsibilities were extended to include preparation of meals, book-keeping and reimbursement of drivers’ expenses, and she was employed by Waverley on a part-time basis.

The Haslemere Blind Club had existed for some time, but in 1984 the lady who ran it was getting too old to continue.

Elaine stepped in as chairman. She ran the club with the same approach she applied to all her voluntary activities - it should be a fun experience for both the volunteers and those who attended.

In 1998 she attended a meeting of the great and good of Haslemere to discuss the formation of a support group for stroke victims and their carers.

Everyone thought it was a good idea, but only Elaine put up her hand to run it.

She was thanked, and someone said: "Don’t worry, we will get someone else to take over from you."

She ran it for ten years until she thought it needed a fresh mind as chairman.

Her kindness, optimism and cheerful nature attracted a good team, and the club survived with her providing support as a volunteer.

The WRVS also supplied teams to provide food and tea to Surrey council staff dealing with emergencies.

Elaine trained WRVS members in this role and headed up the team when emergencies arose. This role was expanded when the WRVS contracted to supply hot food and drink to the fire service for extended fires - teams were present for six days for the Swinley Forest fire.

Elaine loved the work and the firemen loved her; she was most disappointed when the contract was terminated.

From time to time, she was chosen to represent the WRVS, most noticeably in presenting a petition at 10 Downing Street and in the armistice remembrance parade.

Elaine was also involved with the day centres run under the auspices of Age Concern, as it was then known, firstly, as chairman of the Farnham centre for three years, and then for longer in Haslemere, initially under the wonderful chairman, Edith Kinghorn, where she was responsible for catering. She remained there until 2010, when she resigned at the same time as her husband, who had been the treasurer since 1999.

Elaine’s kindness was all-encompassing. When Victor Mizzi asked the people of Haslemere to look after a child from Chernobyl for the summer holiday, she ended up with two children and the tour leader staying at her home.

Her achievements were recognised by service awards from Waverley, Surrey County Council and Haslemere. She was awarded an MBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list. Elaine died peacefully and pain free in her sleep at the Royal Surrey County Hospital on November 27, 2021. She was surrounded by many family and close friends in her final days.

She was a very modest lady and, writing this as her husband of 55 years, I am sure many of those who knew her will be unaware of the full extent of her activities. She enjoyed life and wanted to do her bit to help others less fortunate than her. I can honestly say I don’t know anyone who did not love her. She will be sorely missed.

By Colin Maggs

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