Dame Betty Asafu Adjaye dies: Tributes pour in for tireless Brent ‘icon’ who founded Mission Dine Club in 1985
PUBLISHED: 18:41 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:58 24 September 2018
Tireless community campaigner and charity chief Dame Betty Asafu Adjaye has died.
Tributes have begun to pour in for Dame Betty, the founder of the Mission Dine Club, who has supported thousands of people within the community.
The big-hearted Brent “icon”, who lived in Bentham Walk, Neasden, died on Wednesday.
Ghanaian-born Dame Betty was honoured for her services to charity in 1997 and was the first black woman to hold the title.
Conservative leader, Reg Colwill, said: “I’m gutted; I had nothing but admiration for her. She worked so hard. She was an icon.
“She visited people’s homes, organised dinners and always get us all dancing. She fed so many people.
“What Brent Council did to her demolishing her centre was totally out of order. She put on a brave face but I don’t think she ever fully recovered but took it into her heart.
“She was a selfless, dynamic, wonderful woman, always smiling. Brent has lost a really dedicated worker.”
Cllr Ernest Ezeajughi, who represents Stonebridge ward, said: “The news of her death has shocked the community. Everybody was crying. I got the tragic news the day before yesterday. My mother was very close to her.
“She was tremendous. She worked incredibly hard with the elderly, young people, all ages.
“I am sure Stonebridge and the wider Brent community will miss her. May her gentle soul rest in the Lord.”
Mei Simlai OBE DL, the Queen’s representative for Brent, said: “It’s shocking, I didn’t even know she was ill. She was a truly remarkable lady. She did so much to help the elderly and lonely people in the community.”
Dame Betty ran her charity in Fry Road, Harlesden, for 25 years, holding lunch clubs, social events and hospital visits for the borough’s most vulnerable people. The council demolished the building in 2011, saying the site was needed for a school expansion.
With no permanent base, for the next seven years she travelled from place to place by bus and on foot to offer people the same services, winning the support of many organsation and charities.
Lorraine King, former news editor of the Times, said: “Dame Betty was one of the kindest, caring, most considerate people I have ever known.
“Her tireless work with the community is indescribable and she quickly became not just someone I wrote about but a personal friend.
“Despite losing the building where she hosted her Mission Dine club she continued to feed people by going to them and that included us at the Kilburn Times as she would turn up at the newsroom with cakes and biscuits for us all.
“Words cannot express how much she was loved and how much she will be missed.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to her family.”
Dame Betty set up the MDC in 1985 from the kitchen of her small flat to take care of older people.
With funding from the Conservative party and help from the National Lottery she was able grow her charity, taking the lease of a plot of land in Fry Road in 1996.
She built a community centre on the site, believing it to be a permanent home.
Ikea, the Swedish DIY giant, rebuilt extra rooms and supplied cooking items and utensils. But it was reduced to rubble in 2011 when the council needed the site back.
Dame Betty’s reach was international. In 2016, in recognition of her work, Ghanaian businessman Kwaku Pong offered to donate his 12-bedroom house in Accra to be used as a residential care home so the MDC could be expanded there.
Last year Brent Council awarded Dame Betty a “special community long service award”, which was presented to her by Deputy High Commissioner Rita Tani Iddi from the Ghana High Commission.
Would you like to pay tribute to Dame Betty? E-mail Nathalie at the Kilburn Times: firstname.lastname@example.org.