The East Lizard Helpline has been running for 22 years and Verna Tripconey has been there from the beginning.

Verna, from Ponsongath near Coverack, is one of two co-ordinators who have played their part in turning the helpline into a lifeline for people on the Lizard. It is for this reason that Verna was chosen as one of 25 people to receive the Cross of St Piran award from the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton.

Verna, who worships at the Methodist Chapel in Ponsongath, says she was greatly surprised to find out she had been nominated for the award, but will be accepting it on behalf of all the volunteers who give their time to help others.

Verna said: “We are all volunteers with our own lives and families. We organise around 30 trips a month on average and there are about 30 volunteer drivers. Plus we also run a monthly carers’ meeting which I help out with. It’s very rewarding and I think I get a lot out of it. The people we help are just so grateful. I know it brings peace of mind to people when they can just ring the helpline and know we will organise their transport. I’m very fortunate to be able to do it and help other people.”

The East Lizard Helpline, which was the vision of Revd John Pearce and local resident Anne Davies, runs under the banner of Churches Together in East Lizard and covers St Keverne, Manaccan, St Martin, St Antony, Coverack and Mawgan. The voluntary service covers three areas – it provides transport to and from hospital, dentist, doctor or other medical appointments, a necessity when taxis can cost in the high double figures for a Treliske round trip.

Verna said: “In recent times it’s become very much about driving people to hospital appointments because how else are some going to get there? Taxis are expensive and so many families work now and can’t take time off or they don’t live nearby. A lot of elderly people like to be independent and not beholden on others. That can be very difficult if you have to go to hospital regularly.”

The helpline also provides practical support such as occasional help with shopping, prescription delivery and form filling and it provides care and support in the form of a monthly carers support group. Verna said: “We take about 20 or so people out for cream teas or pub lunches and in the summer there are picnics. We always have a raffle and everyone brings a small prize and with the money we raise, we sponsor two children abroad to help pay towards their education.”

As well as the helpline and her family including her three sons and six grandchildren, Verna is also secretary for her chapel, sings in a choir and is Treasurer of Coverack Horticultural Show. Verna says her faith plays a part in what she does. “I came from a church family and have always been involved. I think it is all part of what you are supposed to do as a Christian.”

Attending the Cross of St Piran Award service with Verna was her ever supportive husband Harry. “Harry has been very supportive, especially when there have been some days where he has been lucky to get his lunch because the phone has been so busy!”