CLYDEBANK’S Citizen of the Year is urging Bankies to spare some time to take part in his “Grab a Granny” campaign to tackle loneliness among the town’s elderly.

Jim McLaren, founder of the Golden Friendships Club, has arranged new and free monthly events for people to bring any elderly friends, neighbours or family members along to enjoy a bit of company.

A press conference was held in the Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel last Friday, January 11, to promote the campaign.

Jim said: “This is an initiative to tackle loneliness, starting in Clydebank. My long-term goal is to challenge every town in Scotland to follow.

“The club is for people who struggle with their daily living. Whether that’s people who have special needs, disabilities, or learning difficulties.

“We now want people to bring someone along who would usually be sitting on their own and need a bit of company – people who are not used to coming out the house or who are a bit frail. We just want people to look after each other.

“We have a generation who have been left behind due to social media so we will be putting leaflets through 20,000 letter boxes so people have a contact number and information about what we are doing.”

Jim praised the support he has received from everyone in the community, including The 543 Club in Dalmuir.

He said: “I’ve got a lot of people behind me – people from all over are helping me out. We’re a team.”

The campaign is being sponsored by Clydebank Estate & Letting Agents and taxi firm Clydebank Private Hire.

David Hamilton, of Clydebank Private Hire, said: “Jim came up with this idea and it’s a no-brainer. People do phone up just to talk to our controllers. They say, ‘This is the only contact I’ve had all day.’

“It just shows how bad this [issue] actually is and the need for this club. Loneliness is worse than people think.

“Golden Friendships is such a great club. People are always happy and smiling and know they have got a massive group of friends because of it.”

Tom Sheridan, of Clydebank Estate & Letting Agents, said: “I got involved in the club for happiness. You see happiness when you go.

“It’s fantastic. To be a part of that is a privilege and I’m proud to be part of it.”

The club is a massive success with up to 500 people a week attending the activities organised.

Speaking at the press conference, Jim’s mum, Molly Kelly, said: “There was only a handful of people in the hall on day one and [Jim] said to me, ‘Don’t worry, this is going to take off.’

“Not one person does not like another person – it is a big family. The love that’s in the room is unbelievable and it’s all come from [Jim].

“[He] really is a special person.”

Last year, the Scottish Government became one of the first in the world to develop a national strategy todeal with the serious problem of social isolation.

Gil Paterson, Clydebank’s MSP, said: “One of the things about loneliness is that it causes ill health and low self-esteem, so the work that’s being done here is quite fundamental, and I call this work.

“It will make people stay healthy for longer and away from hospital.

“The other thing that is quite comforting is the encouragement of other towns to do the same.”

Provost William Hendrie said: “The campaign has been great. It’s fantastic and everyone knows about it.

“Jim has got a great vision for this.

“Everyone I have spoken to that has already went to the club is 100 per cent behind it – they ask when it’s on again; they love it.

“We thought there was places for everybody to go but now there really is.”

In November 2018, a group of 82 members enjoyed a trip south funded by donations and were followed around Blackpool by a camera crew in order to film a prospective documentary about Golden Friendships.

Jackie Maceira, who attends the club, said: “Golden Friendships means everything to me. It is one big family, it’s fun, and everybody’s happy.

“You see people come from a low level of confidence to a high level and it only happens in a couple of weeks.”

In August 2018, Jim was made West Dunbartonshire’s Citizen of the Year and Community/Voluntary Individual Champion as part of the Provost’s Civic Awards.

Jim gave up his job to set up the club.

A charity ball to raise funds for the project is being held in the Golden Jubilee Hotel on February 9 – an event that sold out before it was even advertised.

The first date of the “Grab a Granny” campaign will be held on January 22 in The 543 Club from 2-4pm.