Sunday 4th February 2018 – the launch!

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Our launch has been fast approaching, with much more preparation needed than I care to admit. However, I’m pleased to say it was a complete success!

Our day kicked off around 10.30am, with volunteers both in the hall and the kitchen working tirelessly to make it ready for 12pm. This included laying tables with various condiments and cutlery once volunteer Tallulah had so beautifully laid the tablecloths, peeling and chopping veg, filling milk and water jugs, sorting raffle prizes and leaving to collect those coming via our transport.

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We were so fortunate to have Ocado award us £100 in vouchers as a gesture of goodwill, thanks to volunteer Clare. We are truly so grateful. Just so you know how far it went, this paid for the potatoes, vegetables, milk, Yorkshire puddings, apples, biscuits, tea and coffee. When you are a not for profit organisation this generosity goes such a long way.

Come 12pm, it was all systems go. We welcomed 48 diners who would have otherwise spent their Sunday at home on their own. They were met with smiling faces and a warm welcome – something so important when attending something new.

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Guests enjoyed a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, followed by apple crumble and custard. The meal was followed by tea and coffee with biscuits and a raffle. Everyone loves a raffle!

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As I’m sure everyone can imagine, the ‘clean up’ is always the worst part. It’s something you know is coming but put off thinking about due to the anxiety it brings. Are we going to lose anything? We had four filled boxes, what if something goes missing? What if something gets mixed up with something else? What if the volunteers need to leave, as they have already been so generous with their Sunday? I’m happy to report I had NOTHING to worry about.

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Let me just say our volunteers were absolutely incredible. I understand I should take the praise for organising and having the idea in the first place, but I do not lie when I say this is a team effort. I could not have pulled the afternoon off without them. What’s more, not once did I have to chase something or ask for something to be done. They were in fact always a step ahead of me! Furthermore, they stayed to help clear and wash up, despite not having a break themselves. Everything worked perfectly, just through a shared passion and drive to achieve the same goal. We all wanted our guests to have the best afternoon, and not have to worry about a thing. We wanted them to socialise and make friends, and not have to worry about the time or having to cook for themselves. We wanted them to forget about feeling lonely. We also wanted them to leave with very happy tummies!

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I know Mum will say the same thing about it being a team effort and it’s true, she couldn’t have cooked for 48 on her own. However, this is her menu and her passion for good food, especially for people in later life. Her love of homemade food made the meal taste all the better, and it wasn’t long before the compliments came flooding in as always. Her management of the kitchen meant everyone knew what he or she were doing, and it meant we were ready to serve on time. Thank you Mum for sharing this with me.

The feedback from our lovely guests was all positive. Many confirmed it would have been a day they ordinarily would spend at home alone, and some said they probably would have only had a sandwich as ‘nobody wants to cook a roast for one’. Some said they had spoken to people they had never met before, and it had really ‘brightened their Sunday’. I think everyone felt very overwhelmed with the amount of people willing to give up their Sunday in order to help them have a good afternoon.

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Ultimately, this day was all about the guests. We are facing a loneliness crisis and not enough important people are listening. I’m one person with a fantastic team behind me, but we can’t fix it all. We only have 48 seats to offer once a month and with it becoming very popular already, I fear I am fast becoming a victim of my own success. All I can promise is we will endeavour to give everyone a chance to attend, and will rotate members round if everyone falls into our priority. I ask for your patience and understanding during this time!

Thank you so much once again to our team of 17, you are all heroes and I owe you so much. Thank you for sharing this passion with me. Roll on Sunday 4th March!

 

Our 2017 so far…

As 2017 is coming to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to update all of our loyal supporters on our progress so far, in our run up to launch in February 2018.

Well, what an exciting few months it has been. I first launched the crowdfunding page back in September, and the response I have had since has been more than I could ever have imagined. It has been truly phenomenal and I can’t thank you all enough.

Our update on funding – 

As many of you know, we exceeded our crowdfunding target of £1000 in less than a week. I could cry even now just thinking about that. Donations were coming in from quite literally, all over the country. We even had donations come in from Australia, but admittedly these were from Family Brits abroad! Nonetheless, whether it was because it was something someone out there had always wanted to start, or it connected with them on a personal level, something struck a cord. Whatever our passions and interests are in life, I think we are all in agreement that nobody should have the television as their main source of company. Nobody should be alone.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank The Bishop’s Stortford Independent, RB Hair, The Laughing Bishop’s Comedy Club and The Logistics Organisation for your incredible support. Whether it be in the form of money or promotion, The Welbeloved Club owes a lot of it’s success so far to you. Additionally, a huge thank you to Paddy Lennox for dedicating his last comedy show of 2017 to promoting the club, and allowing me to collect on the door. We raised £80, which pays for our venue for a month and a few added extras.

I put in three applications forms for various grants, and we heard a few days ago that one has been successful so far. A grant of £250 from Bishop’s Stortford Town Council will go a very long way in keeping us going. Thank you! Updates on the other two grants to follow – fingers crossed.

Goodwill from local support –

As many of you have seen we have beautiful, engaging posters and flyers to hand out. This is all thanks to our very kind friend Nick Murr at Juice Creative who not only offered to design them for us free of charge, he also covered the printing costs. We are talking thousands of prints here! We know Nick from many dog walks over the years, but this generosity is more than we could ever have hoped for. Thank you Nick.

We also (as of yesterday) have stunning embroidered polo shirts to give out to all of our volunteers! I always had a vision of looking as professional as possible, especially if we are providing transport and helping people get in and out of their homes. Fosters Schoolwear in Bishop’s Stortford offered us a discount on this order, again as a gesture of goodwill. I can’t wait to see everyone wearing them and seeing the club come to life. Thank you Fosters!

The Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth invited me to attend their Christmas lunch their Sixth Form put on for older people in the area. I went along to distribute some flyers and ‘drum up some business’, which was very successful! I was inundated with calls when I left and lots of positive feedback. We also had an offer from the school’s brass band to perform on our launch day! Bringing the community together like this is so incredibly important.

I would also like to express thanks and gratitude to the Jo Cox Loneliness campaign. We reached out to them a few months ago to tell them about The Welbeloved Club, and asked if they would support and promote this. They didn’t hesitate, and explained that Jo would be immensely proud of the initiative. Jo once said, “I will not live in a country where thousands of people are living lonely lives forgotten by the rest of us”.

We hope we can carry on Jo’s legacy and do our bit towards ending loneliness in our area.

Our way of giving back – 

We are currently in talks with Little Hallingbury’s annual Panto to provide them with sponsorship this year. We couldn’t be more excited about this, and feel very privileged to be in a position to do so. We will be covering the costs of their programmes and in return we will be able to advertise to nearly 600 people over the course of a week. Information on tickets and dates to follow shortly.

Final thoughts for 2017 –

With the year drawing to a close, I am feeling very optimistic about the future. My optimism has been tinged with sadness, as I am reminded that loneliness is a very real problem going on right now, with many forms I have had back leaving the ‘next of kin’ blank. I have collected a form from a lovely lady, who explained that I am in fact the only person she will speak to this weekend, as she has ‘not a soul’ to speak to. I am delighted we have been provided with the resources to pull this project off as it has been made painfully obvious there is a huge need for it.

This Christmas, can I ask that all of you keep in your thoughts all of those that will be facing the day alone, and any support you can offer to charities that support vulnerable people in this position is so vital. Organisations like The SilverLine will be providing support 24 hours a day over the Christmas period and rely heavily on donations. If you have a few quid left after your Christmas shopping, believe me it will go a long way.

Reach out to friends, family and even neighbours who might be alone this Christmas. I’m sure everyone has an extra chair around the table.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone, we look forward to seeing you in February 2018!!

Jo