Sunday 29th April – 4 lunches in!

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So here we are, 4 lunches in and the club is still going from strength to strength. Currently, we have new members joining every month and they just keep coming! All of our new members this month live in Bishop’s Stortford so the word is well and truly spreading. Excellent news! This means that for now, we are on the hunt for more volunteer drivers so please do get in touch if you want to help out.

When we first started, it took a while for me to really reach my intended audience. Don’t get me wrong, everyone who attends does live alone and many go days without speaking or seeing anybody. However, reaching those who are truly isolated was always going to be a tricky task. However, thanks to local businesses and word of mouth, I’m happy to report we have more people signing up who really need it the most. Here I need to thank everyone who took a poster from me right from the start. Local dentists, hairdressers, small business owners, church organisations and local press – I wouldn’t have reached these people if it weren’t for you. Honestly, there is no feeling quite like it when you see new people arrive for the first time full of worry and apprehension, who then at the end, ask to rebook. Success!

This was the first month where we were charging guests a small fee to cover the costs of the meal. Again, I’m so grateful to all the small grants and donations we received over the course of 3 months, which enabled us to provide a lunch for free. More than that, we had enough money to treat guests to added extras, enough money to put on a raffle (although we do get some fabulous donated prizes!) and most importantly, we are able to give guests choice. This month, we had enough to give everyone a glass of wine! This is a new feature and unsurprisingly, went down VERY well. No casualties, just very ‘merry’ customers!

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On the topic of money, we were really privileged to welcome Tracy Whitfield from Waitrose Bishop’s Stortford, who came to present a cheque to us for winning the most tokens back in their January community fund. We were presented with a cheque for £447, a record I’m told! Thank you to all of the shoppers at Waitrose who gave us your token – this money will certainly keep us going!

I was also very happy to present one of our guests Cynthia with a bunch of flowers, to say thank you for her recent donation. Cynthia recently held an 80thbirthday party, and rather than gifts she asked for donations for The Welbeloved Club. In total, Cynthia handed over a cheque for £370! A wonderful sentiment very graciously received. I would also like to thank Bishop’s Stortford Wanderers who, not long after Cynthia, gave me a cheque for £274! They chose us as their charity at their recent cup final. I was overwhelmed with the gesture so a huge thanks to all of you.

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Recently, thanks to the generosity of others, The Welbeloved Club has been able to support a campaign to enable one of our guests to travel to Wales for her brother’s funeral. This lovely lady is certainly one of our more isolated guests, with no family to call on in times of need. I remember when I first visited her at home to help her complete her form and it really brought home to me why I was starting this project. Her house was dark, the TV on but not really watched. This lady was clearly very isolated and I got the feeling I had been the first person she had seen in days. She opened the door immediately like she had been waiting there the entire time, and when she gets collected for club she is nearly always ready an hour in advance. Anyway, The Welbeloved Club was able to donate half of Cynthia’s donation to getting her to Wales and after a successful fundraising campaign; very kind strangers raised the full amount. I’m told she was absolutely overwhelmed, as were her distant relatives in Wales. Thank you everyone!

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from all involved to keep this project going. However, aside from all of that, I just want to talk about our guests. They are truly wonderful, all unique and quirky in their own ways. They have the most interesting stories to tell, and are so appreciative of absolutely everything that comes their way. We have war Veterans, guests who have lost family and friends, guests who have moved into the area and guests who just, through no fault of their own, find themselves spending days if not weeks without seeing a soul. Every single one of them though arrives with a smile (and sometimes cake – I’m looking at you David) and a story they just have to tell. This month, we had two guests arrive asking after a volunteer, one had some patchwork to show her and another had grown her a cactus! As the months pass, it’s beginning to feel more and more like a community and a big family. I’ve been so lucky with support, with both my godmothers coming this month to help out! Thank you second and third mummies.

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I personally am starting to learn names, stories, backgrounds and so much more. Believe me, it absolutely breaks you every time when you’re told it’s been however long since they last had a conversation or spent time in the company of someone who actually wants to be there. How is that so? Why are these people left to be forgotten after giving so much of themselves to society and this country? I refuse to accept nothing can be done when someone tells you the last person they spoke to was the person on the checkout, 3 days ago. I do not and will never accept that – our guests are worth so much more than that.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this month a success, roll on 3rdJune!

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