Sunday 7th October – welcome to Autumn

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As I sit here writing this now, I’m reflecting back on how far we have come in such a short space of time. The club has grown so much that I am now looking into ways of funding a small salary for me, so I can dedicate more time to the club and really give it the support it deserves. Nothing confirmed yet but watch this space!

As we returned from a break in September, it was all hands on deck for our lunch on Sunday 7th October. Lunch this month was roast pork (and crackling) followed by apple sponge, and it couldn’t have gone down better! Our poor oven is being asked to work harder than it’s ever done before so we had to chuck a few things, but we were told the sponge was the lightest they have tasted! Panic over.

As we continue to grow in numbers, the amount of food, refreshments and volunteers has had to increase too. I don’t think I will ever get used to the amount of people that have come forward each month and offered their precious time and for very little in return. My aim has always been to create an atmosphere that volunteers want to return to, because without them there would be no club. As I look around, I’m very aware our volunteers are sweating, tired and stressed – why would they want to come back! They do though, and I’m forever grateful. They always know more than me – how tables are laid, who sits where, how we arrange or monitor things, what system works best. The club has become so much about our volunteers both in and out of the kitchen. Together as a team, we are creating a warm and safe environment for just over 70 people, who ordinarily would spend the day at home alone, after having spent the whole week alone too. I’m so proud of that, and I feel so honoured to witness the friendships that are developing. The hall is never quiet. People who have never met are coming together over lunch, and breaking that dreadful wall of silence they hear too often at home.

Talking of volunteers, I’m delighted to tell you that our youngest volunteer Tallulah was awarded a British Citizen Youth Award this week, for her volunteering work at The Welbeloved Club. Tallulah is 11 years old and has recently started at the Bishop’s Stortford College. Her timetable is now 8am-5pm six days a week, so any spare time she has now is very precious. However, her commitment to The Welbeloved Club has never changed and I’m told she even wants to do more! She was presented with her medal from Diversity’s Ashley Banjo, who gave a moving speech about Tallulah and her support for the lunch club. We are so grateful for your support Tallulah, and are so proud to see how far you have come since your first club. Congratulations!

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A huge thank you to one of our volunteers Paul Brown who, without telling ANYBODY, paid for our meat this month. We are proud to be supporting our local Butcher (Stephens at Snowley) who always give us a good deal. Still though, our meat is one of our main expenses each month, so it was a huge surprise to hear it had already been paid for. Paul saved us just over £67, which means we have that money to spend on Armistice celebrations this month!

We also have to say a big thank you to Mandeville Primary School in Sawbridgeworth, who chose us as their charity/community group to support through their Harvest festival. I was absolutely blown away by the quantity of food they gave us, and so nicely packaged! The food has been divided up into food we will use for our lunches, food we can make up a hamper with for a raffle prize, and food we can donate to our local food bank. I’m happy to say the children will be coming to visit our club for our December lunch to sing some carols to our guests!

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When I get the time, it’s important I continue to look for different grants to apply for to keep us going. The small charge we obtain from guests covers our costs month to month, but it leaves us no money for the added extras like replacement of equipment, entertainment, decorations for themed months and much more. After a lengthy application, I was delighted to hear from the Hertfordshire Community Foundation to say they were awarding us £1000 for ongoing costs. This money will go such a long way in securing our future for 2019, and relaxes me somewhat as I plan for the future. It’s never been more important to secure the funding as I now see what a lifeline the club is for so many people. I’m very committed to ensuring our lunches remain at the highest standard we have set from the very beginning, and to continue accepting registration forms.

Our next lunch will see us celebrating Armistice, with local singer Diane Moore-Cowell coming to sing her ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ set. Flags at the ready! See you on the Sunday 4th November.

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