After 15 years of leading Rotherfield St Martin, Jo Evans BEM, announced her retirement at the charity’s 10th anniversary celebrations.
The ceremony was attended by over 150 well-wishers, members and volunteers. Guests included Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Chair of Wealden District Council and Polly Evans, South East Today presenter.
There wer numerous speeches praising Jo for her work supporting the health and wellbeing of older people in the village of Rotherfield, as well as her work in working with other communities to set up similar models. Dr John Davies from Rotherfield & Brook Surgeries spoke about the impact the work of RSM had on patients’ health and the difference it has made to so many lives.
Jo set up RSM after she realised that many older people’s illnesses were made worse by loneliness. She believed that older people could remain healthy and happy in their own homes and communities. Ten years after the Centre’s official opening with 6 members, RSM now looks after over 350 members in the local area, including around 100 older people from Crowborough. Last year, it organised over 500 volunteer drives to health appointments, ran 180 exercise classes, 160 social activities and a 3 day Holiday at Home programme. The whole village is involved, including other community groups, the local primary school and local residents who volunteer their time. Jo has also mentored other communities across Wealden to set up their own support projects including Forest Row, Mayfield, Herstmonceux and Buxted.
Responding to the changing needs of the village, RSM has now started supporting those living with Dementia and their carers and was recently awarded £16,500 from Awards for All, Charles Hayward Foundation and East Sussex Women of the Year to develop this work. The aim is to make the village of Rotherfield a Dementia Friendly Community.
Announcing her retirement at the end of April, Jo said:
After 15 years, I have decided to hang up my RSM cloak! I am so grateful to everyone in Rotherfield and beyond for supporting the charity and me in particular. RSM would never have succeeded if wasn’t for the belief, trust and amazing generosity of spirit of the people of Rotherfield. I am amazed at how the charity has grown and very proud that we have been able to support other villages to set up similar projects. I step down immensely proud of all that has been achieved and excited about what RSM will achieve in the future.