One of Inverness’ biggest-hearted volunteers is to step back from his role coordinating morning calls to the lonely and isolated after 31 years.
Alan Michael, 76, founded Morning Call in 1989, having been inspired by the Good Morning Service in Aberdeen.
It started out with four clients and two callers but boasts 21 volunteers who make 41 calls every day.
Over the past 30 years, Morning Call volunteers have made more than 500,000 calls in the Inverness, Nairn and Black Isle area.
Their work has been credited with saving lives every year, thanks to volunteers getting to know their clients and their habits well, and picking up that there may be something wrong.
One retired nurse volunteer even picked up on signs that a client was having a stroke and was able to call the doctor round quickly and save her life.
The service has grown to include visits and a housebound library service for Inverness and Nairn. These are manned by 86 volunteers for 134 clients.
Mr Michael, a former policeman, will remain a trustee of the organisation, with his current role taken on by coordinator Nadine Morrison, who will be paid through awards from the Robertson Trust and National Lottery.
He said Morning Call may be the only social interaction their clients have all day.
And he added: “It also gives reassurance to relatives who may be a distance away – including one son who turned out to be in an oil field in Siberia when we detected a possible problem with his mother.”
Another incident which still gives Alan a chuckle came when he went to a client’s house after they failed to answer their morning call.
Peering in, he saw a red stain on the carpet, and said: “two and two make ten in those circumstances”.
Fortunately the client was traced safe and well at a relative’s house, with the stain turning out to be paint.
Mr Michael said his passion for helping the lonely leads back more than 50 years to when he sustained a serious brain injury as a serving police officer.
He was off work for 18 months and has battled physical and mental repercussions ever since.
Sports-mad, he took up football commenting for hospital radio, set up the first talking newspaper in the Highlands, started numerous friendship clubs, a men’s group and the Inverness Men’s Shed.
He was honoured with an MBE for his work in 2007.
War veteran John Kay, 94, lost his wife six years ago and attends one of Mr Michael’s regular pop-ins at Smithton Church.
He said Mr Michael’s work was a lifeline for him.
“It’s the company, somewhere to go, someone to talk to,” he said. “Otherwise I’d just be sitting at home on my own.”
The Morning Call services have a waiting list of 35 clients, prompting Mrs Morrison to appeal for more volunteers to come forward.
She can be contacted on 07514 494053.