The Prince of Wales, 72, said staff, volunteers and residents at Whiteley Homes Trust, in Walton on Thames, should be ‘truly proud’ of their efforts throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Speaking via video from Clarence House, Charles, who has been patron of the charity since 2007 expressed ‘particular gratitude’ to ‘care and nursing staff for their inspirational commitment’.
Whiteley has only seen seven Covid cases amongst residents. Six recovered and one later died from other causes.
With most Christmas events cancelled due to Covid, the Trust produced a video which was sent to villagers, staff and volunteers today to reflect back on 2020 and to remind everyone about all the amazing things achieved, despite the challenges.
His Royal Highness agreed to submit a message of support for inclusion in the video.
In the video, the Prince said the village had met the challenges of the pandemic with great ‘resolve’ and that villagers and staff, should all feel truly proud of what you have achieved together’.
Charles also praised ‘all those working behind the scenes’ delivering other services.
‘The special hot meal and grocery service established during lockdown was a really marvellous example of staff and volunteers working together to support the most vulnerable in the village’, he said.
Prince Charles has praised a Surrey retirement village for its ‘indomitable community spirit and resilience’ during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince Charles’ speech in full
Ladies and gentleman, as your Patron, I am delighted to be able to join you today as part of your Whiteley Christmas celebration. We are all of course, deeply disappointed to be missing out on so many social events that we would normally be enjoying together at this special time of year.
However, the Whiteley Homes Trust charity is nothing if not resourceful and has produced this video for its beneficiaries, for its staff and its supports to recognise and celebrate the innumerable acts of care, kindness and generosity prompted by these difficult times.
Despite the challenges this terrible virus as brought, it is remarkable how resilient you’ve all been and how your indomitable c spirit as shone through even on the darkest days.
I must express particular gratitude to your care and nursing staff for their inspirational commitment and to all those that work so hard behind the scenes to deliver your charities other services.
The special hot meal and grocery service that was established during lockdown was a really marvellous example of staff and volunteers working together to support the most vulnerable in the village.
At such a desperate time for charities. I know how grateful you all were to receive so many generous donations – mostly from residents themselves and their families to your Never Alone Appeal. It was also incredibly heartening to hear of the donations of crucial protective equipment such as the face visors handmade by local students, the 100 of meals provided for villagers and the installation of video call devices which helped reconnect villagers to family and friends.
There are so many stories of how the residents have helped each other, and the NHS too, by sewing face masks for local hospitals and by sharing gardening and dog walking and by forming telephone teams to support those who are housebound or shielding.
Whiteley village has met the challenge with great spirit and resolve and you should all feel truly proud of what you have achieved together.
The closure of so many of the trust’s public facing services, including its café and wedding and conference facilities, has hit the charity’s income hard while the costs of ensuring adequate PPE to protect residents and staff from the virus have spiralled.
They have now launched their Never Alone appeal to raise funds and recruit volunteers and was overwhelmed by the response from the community but also from villagers and their families.
Continuing his message, His Royal Highness said it was ‘incredibly heartening to hear of the donations of crucial protective equipment, such as face visors hand made by local students, schools and colleges, the hundreds of meals provided for villagers and the video call devices which helped reconnect residents to family and friends’.
During the pandemic villagers have also done huge amounts to support each other and those outside the village.
His Royal Highness commented on how they sewed face masks for Whiteley staff and the NHS as well as, ‘sharing gardening and dog walking and formed telephone teams to support those who are housebound or shielding’.
The Prince concluded by congratulating residents and staff for meeting the challenges of the pandemic with ‘great spirit and resolve’ and wished them ‘…a particularly happy and healthy Christmas and a safer and more encouraging new year’.
Rachel Hill, CEO of The Whiteley Homes Trust told FEMAIL: ‘We’re so grateful to His Royal Highness for his support.
‘I know his message will mean the world to our residents and staff after such a difficult year.
‘I couldn’t be more proud of Whiteley and how everyone has pulled together this year – residents, staff and volunteers, to help keep our services going and protect the Village.
‘With just a handful of Covid-19 cases amongst our almost 450 older residents to date, it really has been an incredible achievement. The Whiteley spirit in action!’
The home has residents aged from their mid-60s, while their oldest Freda Hodgson is 107 – and has links to the royal family herself.
Freda has lived at Whiteley Village for 30 years and is fully funded by the charity but her early life was very different.
The centenarian, was born into aristocracy as the only child of a baronet, Sir William Willoughby Williams.
She grew up at Bodelwyddan, the family’s Grade II listed seat near Rhyl in Denbighshire, Wales.
In her early years, she charmed Queen Mary, – Charles’ great grandmother – and the wife of George V, as a debutante, wearing an oyster-satin top with a lace top and a three-yard train.
She went on to live in Africa until 1986 when she returned to the UK with her husband.
Because of exchange controls at the time, they arrived with only £1 to their name and found work as a cook and estate manager for the Wills tobacco dynasty.
Whiteley (pictured) has only seen seven Covid cases amongst residents. Six recovered and one later died from other causes.
The home has residents aged from their mid-60s, while their oldest Freda Hodgson (pictured) is 107 – and has links to the royal family herself. Freda has lived at Whiteley Village for 30 years and is fully funded by the charity but her early life was very different.
Jean Wills was the first cousin of the Queen, and a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret.
Within a week of returning to the UK, Freda on found herself cooking a dinner for the Queen’s birthday and a royal party of 10.
The home has been praised for it’s community spirit this year, with one Whiteley resident – Barry Peters – still cooking around six meals for his neighbours every day.
A community task-force of 70 volunteers have clocked more than 2500 hours supporting the village including in the locals on furlough, charity trustees and residents themselves – doing all kinds of things from dog-walking, gardening, and importantly phoning isolated residents to help with loneliness.