“Absolutely excellent!” says Vera Richards.

Vera is one of our longest serving dining room volunteers, and this week she was invited to a garden party at Alnwick Castle celebrating volunteers’ week.

Vera was nominated by Minsteracres to represent us at the event because of the unstinting effort she gives us and the pleasure she takes in her work. Needless to say she was the only one surprised that she was put forward.

When she heard the date she was doubly excited that she would be able to take her daughter-in-law Jackie with her as she would be visiting from Australia for Vera’s son’s wedding at Otterburn Castle this month.

“It had been raining as we drove up, but it had stopped by the time we got to Alnwick and although it was cloudy it wasn’t cold.

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“The tables were outside on the lawn all covered with white linen and every kind of sandwich imaginable as well as strawberry tarts and cream scones.

“We were on a table with two volunteers from the Lightboat Society at Blythe and two Macmillan nurses,” she says. “The Duchess of Northumberland welcomed us, and when the Deputy Lord Lieutenant came to our table he asked where we were all from. He hadn’t heard about Minsteracres so I told him all about the work there, and how Minsteracres looks after me.

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“Jackie (who thinks I do too much) told him ‘She’s nearly 80 you know!’ I told him I had another two years to go yet!”

Jackie had a hat for the occasion, and Vera wore a fascinator. “The fashions were just out of this world,” she says.

At the end of the day they were given a bag with Ringtons tea and biscuits, chocolate and a little bottle of champagne.

Vera loved every minute, “It’s an experience you’ll never repeat,” she says.