Community worker and philanthropist Born March 6, 1917; Died August 15, 2008

Lilias Graham, who has died aged 91, was a community worker and philanthropist who gave her country house over to helping families struggling to get a break from poverty-stricken and troubled backgrounds.

When she told a young boy, attending the club she ran in her tenement flat in Gorbals in the early 1960s, that it would be closed next week as she was going on holiday, his response was: "What's a holiday, miss?"

The seed was thus sown for Braendam Family House, near Thornhill in Stirlingshire. In 1967, she opened her house for holiday breaks where families paid a small contribution to come and stay to escape the misery of domestic violence, "drunken" husbands or other issues associated with poverty. She recruited all her friends and neighbours as volunteers and Braendam Family House was born.

Over the following years, all those who visited from areas of deprivation in Glasgow and the west of Scotland found acceptance and encouragement, often for the first time in their lives. Many were far more used to being written off as failures. They asked Graham if there was any way this support could continue when they returned home. Thus Glasgow Braendam Link gradually came into being. In 1987, she entrusted the house and its three acres of grounds to the trust that still bears her name.

Lilias Violet Graham was born in London in 1917 into a family with an aristocratic heritage, and a strong social conscience. After a home education, she followed in the family tradition by volunteering in the east end of London among people living in the grinding poverty of the 1930s.

War service in the ATS led to work with the United Nations Refugee and Relief Agency in the Middle East, Greece and Austria. After the war, she studied at the William Temple College, near Chester, and then moved to the Gorbals as a lay worker with the Scottish Episcopal Church.

For Graham, working alongside people in poverty meant living alongside them, and this became the hallmark of her approach. She resided in the Gorbals from the late 1950s to the early 1970s (and became part of the Gorbals group ministry while she was there), then spent a year doing similar work in South Africa, and then settled for many years in Braendam, the eighteenth-century house she inherited and made into a place of respite and renewal for families.

Declining health led to retirement, in Gargunnock and Dunblane, and then finally to residential care in Suffolk, where she died. She is survived by her sister and two brothers.

A boy once asked why she lived in the Gorbals (when presumably she could have chosen not to live there). She made some vague comment to the effect that she thought maybe God wanted her to live there. He replied: "That's no' what ma maw says - ma maw says yer aff yer heid."

Graham touched and changed the lives of countless people, and not only those with whom she worked in the Gorbals. Various colleagues came and went, streams of volunteers gave of their time and skills, students from London School of Economics and other seats of learning had their education well widened.

Lifelong friendships were forged.

This was not patronising or well-meaning do-gooding - Graham was the first to say how much she learned from others, and how much she was given in return.

Above all, she knew, and lived out this knowledge, that when people see others believing in them they begin to believe in themselves. They walk with their heads held a little higher, and things can begin to change.

This may not be the height of fashion in a society which increasingly aspires to the goals of wealth and celebrity, but it is a legacy from her that we ignore at our peril.

At her funeral service in Dunblane, Richard Holloway, her former colleague from the Gorbals days, said: "Unlike many of us, there seemed to be no twists or corkscrews in the psyche of Lilias Graham; what you saw was what was there, sheer goodness, rooted in practical Christian love."