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Jean Gardener

​Jean Gardener - ENABLE Volunteer

In 1968, at the age of 40, housewife Jean Gardner, from Falkirk, had raised her children and was settling in to a more relaxed way of life.
That was until a friend informed her that he was planning to open a youth club for children who have learning disabilities and enquired whether she would spare some time to help. Upon agreeing, she suddenly found herself become a founding member of ENABLE Scotland’s Falkirk Branch and the surrogate mother of 16 new ‘bairns’. 

For the next 45 years Jean devoted her life to the club, taking the register, organising activities, helping in the kitchen and serving on the committee. Despite her dedication and effort, Jean never looked upon her role within the Branch as ‘work’ and instead views it as having been a ‘pleasure and a privilege’. 

“Over the years I watched some of the young people grow up, some new people join and some sadly passed away, but one thing that never changed was how much they enjoyed coming to the club. They’d come running through the door, desperate to tell you all their wee stories and I just loved to listen. At the end of the day, that’s not hard to do. Many of them didn’t have family members who got involved and I sometimes felt heart-broken for them. When they came in and shouted ‘Where’s Jean?!’ I felt like they were all my bairns.”

Jean reluctantly retired from the club in June 2013 at the age of 86. Shortly afterwards, her 45 years voluntary service and her role as the Falkirk Branch’s longest serving committee member was acknowledged with an invitation to the Royal Garden Party at Holyrood in July. 

“Well I was really honoured to have been asked to that. I took my granddaughter with me and we had a lovely time. I met Alex Salmond and I was delighted to hear that he knew all about ENABLE and supported the work we do.”

Even in her retirement, Jean firmly believes in raising awareness of the issues for people with learning disabilities and continues to advocate them by carrying her purple ENABLE shopping bag wherever she goes. She is often approached by people who firstly comment on its striking colour, before going on to ask what ENABLE is, to which she replies with a passionate description of the organisation and its cause. 

Although Jean feels that she was not fit enough to carry on attending the club each week, she admits to deeply missing her ‘bairns’ and is determined to continue to support the club by attending events at the centre, including their traditional annual barbecue where she will of course be contributing batches of her infamous home-baking. 

“It has been wonderful to have one of the most rewarding experiences of my life with such wonderful people. There is just something about them that is so special and I can’t give that up completely!”

Find out more about volunteering with ENABLE Scotland​ here.​​

ENABLE Scotland,INSPIRE House,3 Renshaw Place,Eurocentral,N Lanarkshire,ML1 4UF.Tel: 01698 737 000. Registered Charity Number SC009024

ENABLE Scotland is a partner in the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability SCLD Site Admin