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Kingsway, Stafford, Staffordshire, ST16 1GD
Opening hours: By appointment only
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“When I moved to this retirement development, I hoped I’d make lots of like-minded friends of similar ages to myself. What I didn’t realise was that I’d find a friend for life in an eight-year-old boy.”

Back in 2020 as the country went into lockdown, 82-year-old Marian Moss lost all connection with the outside world, her friends and fellow retirees at McCarthy Stone’s Deans Park Court Retirement Plus development in Stafford. Day-to-day she would look forward to a phone call with a family member and she had her husband, Melvin, for company, but Marian felt isolated, a feeling she wasn’t used to, being a naturally outgoing and active person. 

“I love socialising and meeting new people, even at my age, and that was one of the reasons why we decided to move to Deans Park Court. There is a lovely community here, so when that was taken away from me, it had a bigger effect than I realised” Marian confessed. 

“The Duty Manager at the site could tell I was down and feeling a bit cut-off, so she suggested I sign up to an initiative McCarthy Stone was running at the time called: Send a Smile. I am so very glad she did!” 

It is hard for Marian to hide her beaming smile when she reminisces about her journey to cementing, what is now, a friendship for life. 

“I didn’t wait around, as soon as I received the leaflet for the campaign and it explained how I apply, I got to it. I patiently waited to hear back, hoping, and wondering if there was someone out there who was willing to chat with me. It wasn’t long until I got a match.”

In Dudley, Wendy Bukowczan-Beale stumbled across a post on Facebook one evening, asking children across the country to get involved in the campaign hoping to raise spirits and keep communities connected during the hard times of lockdown. 

Wendy comments: “When I saw the post, I thought what a great opportunity it would be for my children, Theo and Baya, both of whom can be quite shy.

“Instantly I thought this could be a confidence boost for them, whilst being really valuable for the retiree they got matched with as well. Little did I know they would hit it off so well!”
Theo Beale, aged 8, didn’t take much convincing to get involved in the scheme, and with help from his parents, he sent his first letter to his new pen pal, Marian Moss, aged 82, in May 2020.

“I was apprehensive at first,” Marian admits. “I didn’t want my worries and life troubles to concern Theo, so I roped in the help of my granddaughter, Tasha, to help write my reply.”

Marian’s granddaughter, Tasha, had just finished her first year as a primary school teacher. This, coupled with Marians seven years of experience as a classroom assistant back in the 1970s, is what Marian believes allowed her to connect so easily with Theo.

“We hit it off right away, he is such a lovely, sweet boy and is so interested to hear about my life and what I’ve done in the past before retiring. He tells me all about school and his football at the weekends, he even sends me photos of him with his football trophies!” 

In response, Theo says “what I love most about Marian is her pink hair, and that she is always so happy and friendly.”

Marian adds, “Theo and I speak about family and how important it is for us both. Theo also told me that his parents have fostered a little boy named Charlie, which just warmed up my heart inside. What a wonderful family they are.”

Marian also explained she is in contact with Theo’s parents. “We talk ever so often, we are even connected on Facebook which is great as I can see more of Theo and his siblings and what they get up to.”

Wendy loves to see Marian’s photos on Facebook, she adds: “It’s great to see photos of Marian, especially now restrictions have lifted and the summer parties have commenced at Deans Park Court. We are so pleased to see her happy and enjoying herself again.

“We’re so proud of Theo for starting this pen-pal friendship with Marian. Being from a fostering family, he understands the importance of empathy and being kind to others, and this is another great gesture he has done.”

When asked how long Theo wants to continue writing Marian letters, he answered, “Forever!”

Marian replied: “Forever sounds good to me.”