Unsung hero gets wider recognition

Morella Kayman with Robert Peston (second right), Jewish Care leaders and sponsors of the lunch, which raised £235,000

Morella Kayman with Robert Peston (second right), Jewish Care leaders and sponsors of the lunch, which raised £235,000

A grandmother who began her philanthropic career as an eight-year-old evacuee collecting spare change is Jewish Care's Unsung Hero.

Alzheimer's Society co-founder Morella Kayman received her award at the charity's Topland Group business lunch in central London, at which BBC business editor Robert Peston was guest speaker.

Now living in Stanmore, Mrs Kayman, 78, set up her first charity committee when she was a Guildhall School of Music and Drama student. It supported the Jewish Blind Society and she sang to residents at a home for the blind.

She began working to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer's sufferers in the 1970s, following the death of her husband, Lawrence Fisher. He had been diagnosed with pre-senile dementia after the couple had been married for 13 years.

At the time, Mrs Kayman was recovering from cancer and had a young daughter, Mandy, to look after.

The Alzheimer's Society was founded in 1979 after she wrote to the JC and other newspapers. In her JC letter, she described the "horrific nightmare" she and her family had endured and urged people "who are experiencing, or who have known this despair", to contact her.

After 20 years watching her husband suffer - and eventually having to send him to a care home - she wanted to help others in similar situations.

In her award speech, Mrs Kayman recalled that "Mandy and I had coped as well as we could. But I was painfully aware that we had more or less coped on our own.

"I wanted to work towards a future with more knowledge and more understanding."

She also launched the Alzheimer's Disease Golf Society - her late husband was a keen golfer - which has raised in excess of £1 million.

Her latest Jewish Care involvements are a bridge club at the Michael Sobell Community Centre, set to start in February, and Singing for the Brain, a venture bringing together Jewish Care and the Alzheimer's Society.

Mrs Kayman had been staggered, "or as they say in X Factor, blown away", when told of her award. "Charity was part of my growing up - my father was very philanthropic. I was taught the right values. I'm proud of what the society has achieved."

When it launched, "Alzheimer's was so little heard of and it was swept under the carpet. I started with a typewriter in my flat and when I look at it now, I can't believe what it's become. It makes me very emotional."

The lunch was attended by more than 600 people and raised £235,000 for Jewish Care centres supporting dementia sufferers.

    Last updated: 12:37pm, November 10 2011