Earlier this year, Nextdoor launched the Good Neighbour Awards to find the UK’s best neighbours who are changing lives and going above and beyond to help their neighbourhoods and communities. Out of hundreds of nominations, five well deserved neighbours were crowned the winners of Nextdoor’s Good Neighbour Awards 2018.
Today as national Friendship Month comes to a close, we reveal the second winner from our Good Neighbour Awards 2018. Jan Howley was nominated by her friend Jim for setting up a social group on Nextdoor to tackle loneliness in Nuneaton, which in the words of Jim, saved his life.
Jim has been married for over 50 years and led a life of adventure with his wife, travelling all around the world. However, when his wife was diagnosed with dementia, and later became too ill to stay at home, she was taken into specialist care. Jim was lost without her and found himself alone day in and day out without anyone to speak too.
Jan has always been concerned about loneliness and isolation particularly for older members of the community who have the ability and desire to go out and enjoy life, but simply do not have the company to do it with. When she met Jim she saw the difference in what a visit and a friendly conversation made to his day and began to look for some kind of group that could enhance his life.
The few that she found local to her neighbourhood of Crow Hill in Nuneaton, were not only full but were missing something. They lacked a true zest for life.
So Jan decided to take matters into her own hands. With the aim of those who may be lonely and to prove that you are never too old to have fun, Nuneaton’s Nextdoor Social Club was born.
Jan didn’t feel posters in the local neighbourhood would have the traction she was looking for so she used Nextdoor to spread the word and set up the first meeting a local pub. Initially she only expected there to be herself and Jim, but to their surprise, ten people turned up. Then the next week five more came along and then even more the following week.
In the last year the group has continued to grow and flourish and there are now 27 of them who meet twice a week and are living life to the full.
The group meet every week for a range of different activities and outings, all planned and organised by Jan. Over the past year they have participated in a real mix of adventures and activities including; cinema trips, bowling, crazy golf, BBQ’s, theatre, fancy dress parties, canal boat trips, quiz nights, vintage bus tours, murder mystery nights, games in the park and city days out to Liverpool and Birmingham. After each outing Jan will post a short summary on Nextdoor, allowing the group to reflect on their day and to inspire others in her neighbourhood.
The social club has injected fun, laughter and happiness into so many people’s lives. New friendships have formed, that without Jan, would never have been possible.
When we visited Jan to present the Good Neighbour Award 2018 to her, she reflected on how despite starting the group to improve other people’s lives, it has enriched her own massively. With her children growing up and needing her less, running the group has filled her with a strong sense of purpose, knowing that she is making a difference in people’s lives. People who she now sees as her good friends.
“When I set up the group, I didn’t know how I would find enough people to join. However, Nextdoor has helped to re-connect people, bringing them together and there really has been no limit to who it reaches.
“I wanted to tackle loneliness and help other people, but this group has also changed and enhanced my life. It’s wonderful – I now have 27 new friends.
“I didn’t set out for recognition, my reward was to change people’s lives and so it’s even more amazing to have won the Nextdoor Award”
Meeting Jan and the group for a day of games and cake in the park reaffirmed the impact Jan truly has had on people’s lives. There was so much love, laughter and energy between them all, it was infectious.
Jan always says, “You’re never too old to have fun!” and we couldn’t agree more.
Jan is the second profile in our Good Neighbour Award series and we hope her story will inspire neighbours across the UK to use Nextdoor in new ways to bring people together and make a difference to peoples lives. Keep an eye on our blog to find out more about our remaining three winners.
If you have a good neighbour story to share with us then we would love to hear from you.
Written by Carly Howley and Alice Skeats