Our Story

Befriended was born out of a desire and passion to make a difference in the lives of isolated and vulnerable people. We are based in West Sussex and currently support and befriend lonely and isolated people in Mid Sussex.

What makes the difference to each of them is the gift of time, a friend, someone to be there for them.

For many years Gail was acutely aware of the epidemic of loneliness, not so much, at the time amongst older people living in Mid Sussex but definitely among people who were marginalised in society. With a small group of friends from local churches, the subject became more and more discussed and became an issue that needed a response.

After a lot of research, it became apparent that there was a huge need in the very locality where they were all living. Gail took up the baton to champion the Church leaders, raise awareness and began to gather a small group of passionate people to form the Charity Befriended. In 2017 Befriended was launched, commissioned by the then Bishop of Lewes, Right Honourable Richard Jackson attended by lots of older people, many church leaders, councillors, dignitaries and the Mayor. We had many people sign up to be volunteers which led to the start of our face-to-face befriending scheme.

From the outset Befriended has heavily relied on the goodwill, generosity and commitment of volunteer time and expertise. All of the management, leadership and development of befriended was done on a volunteer basis from 2017 till the present day. The charity was established with a trustee board representing numerous churches in the area.

The first priority was to establish a face-to-face befriending scheme, with volunteers visiting their clients on a regular basis. What then grew was the opportunity to provide events bringing people together to enjoy food fun and friendship. Another local charity Befriended provided somewhere to go on Christmas Day for those with no family – Befriended Community Lunch was launched.

Over the next couple of years Befriended grew its reputation and client base as well as establishing itself within the Befriending charity world.

In 2020 all our lives were impacted by the onset of the Pandemic. Befriended took the swift decision to suspend our face-to-face befriending in order to protect both our clients and our volunteers. But it was also apparent that the need would be ever greater due to many of our clients not having any family connections or support to maintain contact with them. With some intense work, our Telephone Befriending Scheme was launched using our 0300 772 7703 number. This attracted not only many new clients but also willing volunteers.

The year 2021 was to become the year of change within the charity:

A new Patron came on board – Bishop Ruth Bushyager – Bishop of Horsham
Three new Trustees – Nick Baldwin, Janice Gott and David Chewter
The first employee appointment – Gail Millar became the CEO of Befriended
Employing Gail as the Chief Executive was not only to be a big step for the charity financially but also to have a huge impact on our practices, policies, procedures and plans. Within the first few weeks, Gail did an audit of all aspects of Befriended and found that a lot needed to change so within the first few months everything was addressed, scrutinised and made much more efficient.

A vision was shared with the trustees, a plan of action was put in place, new services were offered, and a restructuring of the operation was actioned.

The story continues to unfold….