Firefighters at Acton Fire Station have been swapping their hoses for cups of tea thanks to a special fund created by Ealing Community Transport (ECT) to give isolated and lonely residents an opportunity for a get together. Almost 50 Ealing residents have been able to attend a Tea Party at Acton Fire Station, thanks to the support from the ECT Transport Fund. The Tea Party was the first community event to make use of the fund, which gives local community groups an opportunity to bid for transport funding that will stimulate new or additional community activities, especially those that benefit lonely and isolated individuals. Successful applicants receive credit of up to £1,000 to offset the cost of transport provided by ECT, including vehicle hire, fuel costs and a driver if required. ECT and the Acton Fire Station worked in partnership to invite people to socialise at the fire station over cake, sandwiches and other treats donated by local suppliers, plus a hotly contested raffle. The first female firefighter in the UK, Sister Mary-Joy Langdon, was also a guest of honour. The event proved so popular that ECT supplied two buses allowing 24 people with varying mobility difficulties from all around the borough to attend. Firefighter Kim Jerray-Silver was inspired to organise the Tea Party after meeting a local resident on a home fire prevention visit. She said: “At the end of one particular visit an elderly lady started telling me how lonely she was. I took her name and number and told her she would be hearing from me. I know from personal experience that loneliness can be a major risk for dementia. By stopping the loneliness, you are helping to improve mental health and all round welfare.” Kim added: “If it wasn’t for ECT, we would only have had half the people there as we did not have the necessary transport to accommodate different mobility difficulties. Having their support has enabled us to reach out to all elderly or isolated individuals in the borough, no matter what their individual needs. “Knowing that ECT is out there to support us is motivation to want to do more – it enables us to push the boundaries and put more and more activities on.“ Lena Chance, a passenger from Greenford, said: “It was a brilliant day, which was only made possible due to the transport that allowed me to come to the fire station.” Passenger Josephine West said: “I love the green buses, as they are very comfortable and allow me to live a more independent life.” Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT, said: “As part of our commitment to making a real difference to ending loneliness and isolation in our community, Ealing Community Transport constantly seeks innovative ways to work with local partners to provide local communities with safe, affordable and accessible transport that responds to their needs. “This was a wonderful community event, and a perfect example of how ECT’s Transport Fund enables isolated people to leave their homes and socialise.” To find out more about the ECT Transport Fund and how to apply click here.