The Bishop’s Stortford Independent Christmas Appeal

We are so fortunate that our local newspaper (Bishop’s Stortford Independent) are hosting another Christmas appeal for us, in order to give all of our guests a Christmas to remember.

If you would like more information on how you can get involved and support the appeal, please follow the link below:

https://www.bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk/news/indie-christmas-dinner-appeal-help-us-give-the-lonely-elderly-a-festive-feast-to-savour-9090883/?fbclid=IwAR2rJ4QkreUA6tt_Zt8JelJVDGFUd-A63yAcYL6CT248K-VAFj65jRUGEDQ

Thank you!

Sunday 3rd November – Remembrance

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This was our second November lunch since we started, and it proved just as special as the last! We decided to stick with the Remembrance theme and this time, we thought we would trial laying the tables out a little differently.

The Welbeloved Club has always and will always be about making friends, meeting someone new and chatting to someone you may never have met had it not been for the club. Having individual tables worked well and definitely gave guests a chance to chat and share interests. However, I felt it was limiting people to their table. Once everyone had been a few times, the tables were staying very similar and as a result, it didn’t provide much opportunity to meet new friends. So, we tried a ‘street party’ type layout and I think it went really well! It really opened the tables up and gave guests a chance to chat to more people, see more faces and of course, join in with our singer for the afternoon.

I am acutely aware the above picture highlights exactly how many people we had with us last month. It’s quite incredible – over 100 people joined us. Our highest yet! Gosh. What are we thinking? What business do we have hosting an event for this many people!? It is of course a huge achievement and one I am incredibly proud of, but also a very overwhelming experience. I would be totally lost without my mum who essentially runs the club month to month while I continue to work full-time. So, as well as the cooking, she is doing a lot of the admin, planning, correspondence and restocking. I owe her so much, so it seems only right I tell you all now what a total superstar she is!

So, lunch this month was beef cobbler followed by sticky toffee pudding. Cobbler for anyone unfamiliar with the term is a savoury scone, almost like a giant dumpling. It was totalllllly delicious. The scones were homemade in the morning, and cooked beautifully in our new oven! Sticky toffee pudding as you can only imagine was a delight, with everyone commenting on just how light and fluffy it was but also what a treat to have with ice-cream. Basically, just another reason why mum is totally ace!

We welcome back our singer from last year, Diane Moore-Cowell. We absolutely loved having her with us last year that we just had to get her back. She gets everybody up on their feet dancing, singing and just having such a great time. She is, of course, totally gorgeous and looks so fantastic in her wartime outfit. She was however promptly informed that she would have been told off had this been her real uniform as I think it was either banned to wear make-up or perfume? One of the two. She was let off though (thankfully!) and gave us an hour of entertainment and got everyone in the nostalgic mood.

Are we now really at the last lunch of the year? I can’t quite believe where the time has gone. I have been busy writing over 100 Christmas cards (not all at once!) and putting together our 2020 menu. I’m also busy renewing insurance and mum has just finished our end of year accounts. It has made us think more about becoming a registered charity in 2020 as it will open up lots of different opportunities for us in the future. Watch this space!

As promised, this week should bring more information on the Bishop’s Stortford Independent’s Christmas appeal, in aid of our club! You will be able to find out more information on how you can support us, how you can get involved and what we need! The paper comes out on Wednesday and will have further information online.

See you on the 1st for Christmas!

Sunday 6th October – a lonely season

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We are now well into our 2019 autumn season, the nights are getting longer and our guest list is certainly growing!

Autumn and winter can be a really tough time for those on their own. Christmas is looming, the weather can stop older people from getting out and with the nights drawing in, it is no surprise this time of year is said to be the loneliest time of year. It’s also Halloween season which, if not respected by everyone, can be very scary for older people for a different reason. If you are living on your own and are not used to knocks on your door, ‘trick or treaters’ can be very overwhelming. Nobody should be made to feel anxious in their own homes, and while nobody wants to spoil the fun, please be mindful of your elderly neighbours who may not want to be disturbed this Halloween night.

Our (very busy) lunch this month was roast beef, followed by apple sponge and custard. We always buy local when we can, and this month we were delighted to purchase the apples from my workplace, St Elizabeth’s Centre in Much Hadham. They host Apple Day once a year where guests are invited to pick apples from the orchard in exchange for donations. The timing worked perfectly so guests enjoyed apple sponge courtesy of a local orchard! It also means we were able to support another charity which makes it all the better.

We continue to welcome new guests every month. I would say at the moment on average, we are welcoming perhaps 3-5 new faces which is lovely! Two of our volunteers Jess and Hannah had their lunch with two new chaps and really enjoyed getting to know them. I joined them soon after and enjoyed being able to take 10 minutes to chat, as well as catching up with one of our regulars. It’s all very well cooking, serving and clearing away food, but it is the face to face conversation we are trying to promote. This doesn’t have to be just between guests – I”m always encouraging volunteers to take up rogue empty seats so they can spend some time getting to know our guests and who knows, likely be the first person they have spoken to all week.

I mentioned earlier that lunch was super busy. I was at one point worried we wouldn’t be able to pull the lunch off as I was limited on volunteers but sure enough that wasn’t the case for very long! In times of need, people pull together and as I predicted, I probably had too many at one point! I always try and stagger arrivals and departures so everyone can get the most out of their time with us but I’m likely to never get it completely right. I’m so grateful for every minute people give me, and for their patience when things can be a bit quiet for them or the opposite! It’s a work in progress and I owe them all a huge thank you for sticking by me.

As we look to our November lunch, I’m really excited to say that our singer from last year Diane Moore-Cowell is coming back! She got everyone up on their feet and gave everyone a really fun, uplifting afternoon. We loved her so much that I couldn’t wait to invite her back. We will be hosting another Remembrance theme, in which guests will be able to wave a flag and singalong with all their favourites.

I have another bit of very exciting news. I can’t confirm too much yet but I’m thrilled to say that the Bishop’s Stortford Independent newspaper are supporting our Christmas appeal again this year. We have already had a number of sponsors come forward to pay for our ‘Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh’ packages, as well as our ‘Little Donkey’ package. All will become clear next month but watch this space! Thank you so very much to Paul and his team at the Indie for showing us your endless support.

See you next month for Remembrance!

P.S – we have just joined the world of Instagram – follow us now at @thewelbelovedclub !

 

 

Sunday 1st September – some special guests

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Our September lunch was a very exciting one! We were delighted to welcome TV star Jeff Brazier, his wife Kate and two sons Bobby & Freddy. Jeff got in touch with me a few months ago via the Postcode Lottery (we had previously had a grant from them) to explain that his youngest Freddy had expressed an interest in wanting to volunteer! He was looking around his local area and wondered if we had room to accommodate. Jump forward a month and we were thrilled to have the whole family with us on the day. With the help of our other loyal volunteers, they were soon thrown into the madness of prepping and serving, before getting stuck into the demanding task that is clearing away! It was great to have them all with us, and I hope Freddy enjoyed it as much as he had hoped to!

On the menu was a roast chicken meal, followed by my favourite – jam roly-poly! This month however, we had our first go on the new oven!! It made SUCH a difference, the main one being the potatoes were cooked perfectly, and on time. It is very user-friendly, and easy to store away in between lunches. It’s completely portable too so we can set it up wherever we need, and can take it with us on the road once we eventually get to that point. Thank you all once again for your kind donations in making the purchase happen, as well as East Herts Council for the £1800 grant that essentially made it possible.

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We are coming towards the end of another year – I can’t believe where the time has gone. The number of people that come to dine with us are the highest they have ever been, and now every time people call up to join, they shower us with compliments and insist they must join to see what all the fuss is about! Our proudest reminder is the fact we now have groups of friends that met through coming for lunch, and some even realised they lived just doors away from each other! It’s a wonderful thing to know we are putting positivity into a life that before club had only known sadness and isolation for many years. As a reminder: (Taken from Age UK)

3.6 million
… older people in the UK live alone, of whom over 2 million are aged 75+.
1.9 million
… older people often feel ignored or invisible.
15 cigarettes
Loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

 

The next few months will see us welcome some entertainment! I’m very grateful to Diane, who will be coming back for our Remembrance lunch on November to sing! It was great to have her last year, and everyone really enjoyed heading back down memory lane. Come December, we have a new singer who will be joining us to sing some classics and get us in the mood for Christmas. More info to follow soon!

A huge thank you to our volunteers again who make it all possible – especially for this lunch just gone. It was very busy and everyone showed such dedication and commitment to a very tiring job – all from the goodness of their hearts. We love you and want you to know how much we appreciate your time and efforts. This includes my mum who helps me run the club month to month. She is always coming up with ideas on how to make it easier for me while I’m still working full-time and I couldn’t do it without her.

This month is the last time we are donating our raffle money, and the final charity is the Campaign for Dignity in Dying. Although deemed controversial by some, to me it isn’t and having worked in roles that deal with these sorts of conversations, it’s a campaign I feel has no opposing argument.

See you on on the 6th October!

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Sunday 4th August – no slowing down

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It was around this time two years ago that I first thought launching this club was actually doable. The thought was there but it was very much in its beginning stage and filled with doubt over whether or not I could afford to do this. Could I afford to run this club? Could I afford to do it for free and expect everyone else to do it for free? What is everyone else going to say? What if nobody else gets it?

I went for it anyway, and slowly put the feelers out there as to whether or not there would be enough interest and if people would financially support me as well as emotionally, physically and everything else that comes with it. Here I am two years later, and as I write I’m leaning over a pile of five more registration forms, more raffle ticket books than I know what to do with and a picture of Grandma (Doris) right next to me. We actually all think she would be highly embarrassed we’ve made such a fuss of her and her name but in our eyes, she was totally worth it.

This month was tooooootally my favourite dinner ever! Chicken and mushroom pie followed by banoffee pie. All the pies, all the feels. Our butchers in Snowley Parade continue to give us ridiculously generous discounts and this month was no different so, thank you Bob and Jan!

We were joined again as ever by our band of loyal supporters. More than anything now, The Welbeloved Club has become a social gathering for us just as much as our guests! I now get to see my dearest friends and family on a monthly basis and have made new friends that I would never have met had it not been for club. I think I said it a while back but, I also love seeing my friends and family from different circles come together and bond, knowing it was me that made that happen. We’ve shared a lot as a group, and I know we have found comfort in each other when we least expect it (while preparing vegetables for example!).

This month was also the first time for some of our new guests. Some of the bravery I’ve witnessed has been incredible, and I’ll never get used to that. Even at an older age, the courage it takes for someone to walk in alone having not met anyone before and having just recently lost their partner of 60+ years, is something beyond me. And this person is simply just saying, I need some company now more than ever. Life happens to all of us, and while I’m able to I’ll always do my utmost to provide an atmosphere where someone can come and be with friends and talk to me. Mum and I joined a table for our lunch, and in that short space of time we learnt all about how Frank met his wife, how it was love at first sight, what times were like back then and how long they were married. It was the best lunch ever.

As you may have seen on our Facebook page, we finally bought our new oven!!! It’s so posh and lovely and new and just, so nice we don’t want to get it dirty!! But thanks to East Herts Council, we can now start making proper expansion a reality. Thanks to everyone including our guests who have supported us to the point where we actually need a new oven!

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Next month (or I should say this Sunday!) I’m delighted to say we will be joined by some special guests who will be coming to help us. More details to follow in next month’s blog!

And finally, our raffle money this month of course went to The Silverline, a charity doing what we do on a much much bigger scale. They do fantastic work in providing a 24-hour helpline to lonely older people who need a reassuring voice any time of the day.

See you on the 1st!

Sunday 7th July – Summer is here

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Summer is well and truly here! Our numbers are continuing to grow with more enquiries coming in now more than ever. Everyone who calls me tells me how they’ve heard ‘such wonderful things’ about the club, and as they find themselves at a loose end on a Sunday they want to give it a go. We really look forward to meeting new faces each month so please do keep getting in touch!

As mentioned in the previous post, our menu changes slightly in the summer months to work with the hotter weather. This month homemade quiche was on the menu with potatoes and salad, followed by strawberries, cream and meringue. Mum covered the fruit in strawberry sauce and a sprinkle of sugar which definitely gave it that extra kick! It proved just as popular as our normal roasts and appeared to have gone down a treat.

I’m delighted that we have more and more younger volunteers wanting to take part. Our volunteer numbers are consistently high at the moment so, although I’m not actively advertising for them, I’m pleased to accept applications on a case by case basis. We have had volunteers complete part of their Duke of Edinburgh award with us, and other volunteers keen to form bridges between that generational gap. It’s inspiring to be able to provide that platform to younger people so keep them coming!

Thank you very much to the Bishop’s Stortford Woodwind Band who came to perform a few old hits. Entertainment after lunch is always appreciated by all and gives all our guests something to enjoy during their tea and coffee. This band I believe regularly perform to similar groups around the area and always do it free of charge. We loved having them with us and hope to see them again at Christmas time.

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Thank you once again to our amazing volunteers who make running the club possible. Not only do we have the volunteers in the kitchen and in the hall helping to prepare, we have the volunteers who are driving to make sure the most isolated guests can still enjoy Sunday lunch with us. We have volunteers doing our laundry for us, donating equipment, stock and raffle prizes and of course, we have many loyal supporters continuing to spread the word in the community. We say thank you a lot, but it’s important we continue to recognise our wonderful helpers who have stuck by us since day one. So, THANK YOU!

Our raffle money this month went to Waverley Care, based in Edinburgh. Mum has brought two wonderful friends into my life (Steve and Grant I’m looking at you!) and we wanted to show our appreciation for the fab work Grant is doing as CEO of the charity. So, please take our donation as a contribution towards all of the support you provide families and their loved ones living with HIV and Hepatitis C.

Our next lunch is Sunday 4th August, where we welcome yet more faces to the club. See you there!

Sunday 2nd June – Remembering D-Day

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The Welbeloved Club is heading into summer, but showing no signs of slowing down! Our numbers remain high and we are now feeding more guests than ever. As I sit here now, I have just processed another five registration forms all from members wanting to meet new people and in need of a little companionship. We can’t wait to meet you all!

With growing numbers again comes with extra cost. We still have our fingers crossed for a grant to be spent on a new oven, and are very grateful for the continued support around the community which in turn is generating donations. We spent the sunny Saturday in Bookers wholesalers yesterday restocking on equipment and ingredients, so your donations always get spent in the right way! A big thank you to the Mick Newman and Bishop’s Stortford Golf Club who donated £320 recently from one of their senior teams. This will go a very long way!

Sunday 2nd June also meant some of our guests were marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. One guest in particular wore his medals with pride. Charles Foster (above) is a D-Day Veteran himself, having fought on the beaches of Normandy. He was awarded the legion d’honneur for his efforts 75 years ago, the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits. So, we were in the company of a true hero.

As we move into summer, we change our menu to adapt to the ever-changing seasons. Our June, July and August lunches are a little lighter, but still tastier than ever! This month guests enjoyed gammon, potato, veg and parsley sauce, followed by orange and chocolate pudding. I realise I say ‘lighter’, but on reflection that doesn’t sound light at all! Safe to say it was clean plates all round and even room for some seconds.

 

Thank you once again to our amazing volunteers who work so hard despite the heat both in the kitchen and main hall. As you all know we couldn’t do it without you and are so appreciative of your time and efforts. If you get anything out of it, hopefully it’s a happy tummy (our volunteers get lunch too)!

We were a little short on raffle prizes this month. It seems our Christmas reserves have finally run out, so we are now on the look out again for anything you kind folk can donate. The raffle is always very popular, with the money this year going to other worthy causes. This month the raffle money has been donated to Crohn’s and Colitis UK, a charity doing fantastic work in the research and support of people living with the disease. As they all do, this charity means a lot to my best pal and therefore me.

Next month we are pleased to welcome the Bishop’s Stortford Woodwind Band, who are coming to provide some entertainment to our guests while they enjoy their meringues and strawberries (and plenty of cream!).

 

As I sign off, some of you may not be aware it has recently been Loneliness Week 2019. Loneliness can be so crippling. Research suggests that around half a million older people in the UK can go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. If you know an older person who lives alone, whether it be a relative or neighbour, why not consider popping by to say hello and check they are okay. We all owe it to each other to look out for each other.

See you next month!

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