How it all started
The organisation was started in the 1970s by David Bentley, then the Rector of Christ Church, Esher, as part of the church's programme of pastoral care. It was originally split into two branches, one providing care and one providing transport. The 'care' branch was run by local churchgoer Margaretha de Haan.
“In the 1970s and 80s we visited people who couldn’t get around, and we used to shop for them and stay with them for company,” explains Margaretha.
Eileen Martineau ran the transport branch, which took passengers to their doctors’ and hospital appointments.
One of the original volunteers was Gill Barnett, who retired from the service in 2016 after almost 40 years service. Gill took over the running of the car charity in the 1980s and amalgamated it with the care side to provide both services. In the 1990s it became independent from the church and then in 1996, a charity providing transport in Claygate closed, and passengers from Claygate were taken on by the Esher service. The service became Esher & Claygate Care.
“We used to visit passengers and take them to do their shopping, as well as drive people to their hospital appointments,” Gill says. “We had one passenger who had cerebral palsy and we took him to Waitrose every Wednesday for 12 or 13 years. There was a rota of five people who would take it in turns.”
The rota was created by Lis Hughes, another longstanding volunteer, who took over the running of the charity for two years when Gill lived in Indonesia. When Gill returned, Lis worked as Treasurer and they ran the service together for more than 20 years.
In early 2016, Gill and Lis stepped down and their incredible commitment was recognised when they both received the Elmbridge Long Service Volunteer Awards in October 2016. Gill was also awarded the Silver Salver by the Esher Residents Association in November.
Esher & Claygate Car Service is now run by a committee which remains dedicated to the support and welfare of the passengers.