Come on Eileen!

Today, I had a quite humbling experience – presenting an award to a soft-spoken woman called Eileen Gilchrist who has been an absolute pillar of the community, particularly when it comes to activities for older people at Kingsgate Community Centre.

Eileen has finally called it a day, having celebrated her 90th birthday at Kingsgate earlier in the year. She is retiring, and moving from West Hampstead to Windsor, to live with her daughter, after 26 years of volunteering at the Community Centre.

I don’t know Eileen very well, so I was filled in on what she has done (although it would have been easier to say what she hasn’t done!).  She currently organises the line dancing sessions for seniors and up until last year ran the over-50s keep fit group (which her daughter Linda has taken over).

90 year-old Eileen Gilchrist - an example of community service for us all

She also organised an over-50s Tai Chi group and also ran a Saturday market at Kingsgate which help to raise funds to support all these activities, as well as an art group.   Beyond the doors of Kingsgate, she’s played a vital role in community life from supporting the Kilburn Festival to helping out with activities in schools and other centres.

To cap it all, she’s a bit of a celebrity – she featured in Basement Jaxx’s video for Oh My Gosh.  So she’s cooler than me, on top of everything else!

In short I found out that she’s been a complete star, a real backbone for Kingsgate who has given so much fun and enjoyment for hundreds of older people in our area.  Without her, many activities wouldn’t have happened, or wouldn’t have happened so well.  Her philosophy, she told me this afternoon, is quite simple – “you do your bit, don’t you”.

I hope this spirit of community service hasn’t been lost to younger generations.  Whether you believe in notions of the ‘Big Society’ or not, you can only stand back and admire such a level of commitment to her community and friends.

Best wishes, Eileen, for a happy retirement – don’t be a stranger to Kilburn and Kingsgate.

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