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!

RB Hair Salon teams up with Welbeloved!

EXCITING NEWS!

Ahead of their new Hair Salon launch, we have teamed up with RB Hair to host ‘Chat & Blow-Dry’ mornings!

Starting on Thursday 11th July, RB Hair Salon will be opening their doors every Thursday morning between 10am-12pm to ladies who live on their own, and fancy a bit of a chat while they are pampered with a £10 blow-dry! There will also be plenty of tea and cake on offer too.

This is our first collaboration to host similar services outside of our Sunday lunch so we hope even more lonely older people can benefit from some support.

For more information and to book an appointment, visit www.rbhairsalon.com

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Sunday 12th May – a lunch fit for a Royal!

May proved a slightly quieter lunch for us this month, for both guest and volunteer numbers. This is by no means a bad thing – we are delighted when our guests can’t attend lunch because they have family or friends visiting. Generally, this is family they haven’t seen for a long time, so it’s something we very much promote. The hilarious comments we get though – ‘they could have visited on another weekend; I’m going to miss my favourite lunch now!’. We are so pleased to hear you enjoy your time with us so much!

 

We had lots of happy callers this month however, phoning to not only book in but express how much they are looking forward to roast pork (and crackling of course!). For many, cooking a meal for one is hard enough but generally speaking, any form of roast meat is most certainly off the menu. I was astonished to learn it had been years for some of our new guests since they last enjoyed a joint of pork from their local butchers. I’m very pleased that each month since we started, we have had the most incredible support from our local butchers at Snowley Parade – Bob and Jan. They always give us the best service and have supported us right from the start. The meat tastes all the better for it! It’s always service with a smile. We also are happy to be supporting local!!

Another huge success this month was our ‘upside-down’ pudding, with ice cream. As everyone knows Mum makes the best sponge anyway, but quite honestly not a scrap came back. There proved room for seconds and thirds of both courses, so our guests were well and truly stuffed come the end of the afternoon.

 

I’m excited to say our application to East Herts Council to purchase a new oven will be moving onto the next stage in the assessment process. A new oven as mentioned in my previous post will enable us to cook for even more hungry guests! So, we are hopeful to secure this important grant.

Despite covering our costs month to month, with the reason increase in numbers it has been quite an expensive month for us. Some equipment has needed replacing (a new water urn) and we have needed to buy more crockery to ensure everyone has a plate to eat off! We also have month to month costs like venue hire, transport and ingredients to pay for so it’s a job in itself keeping on top of our finances. We are always looking for donations and support, as well as keeping an eye out for any small community grants we may be eligible for. If you see anything, please do let us know! Information on how to support us is available on the website.

On that note, don’t forget you can support us via East Herts Lottery! For just a £1 a week, you can support us and be in with a chance of winning £25,000 in return. Visit www.easthertslottery.co.ukfor more information!

Before I sign off, I couldn’t go without talking about a recent Royal visit that happened recently…

On Tuesday 21stMay, Mum and I were invited to attend one of Her Majesty’s Garden Parties in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. I was invited for setting up The Welbeloved Club back in August 2017 and took Mum along as my guest of honour.

It was truly an absolutely incredible, surreal experience. I will never ever forget it.

Walking through the gates of Buckingham Palace and into the grounds was mind blowing – how could we be so lucky? We walked into the grounds and stood patiently with the crowd. The National Anthem then played and we were given our first glimpse of The Queen, followed closely by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We then realised where we were standing would mean we would be a matter of metres away from them once they walked down, a mistake I thought. Surely enough, after an hour, I was standing directly next to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – so close I could smell her perfume (it was lovely!). She is by the way, even more beautiful in the flesh. After switching sides, I was then just a few metres away from Her Majesty The Queen. Everyone was so graceful in the crowd, with everyone letting each other take turns in getting to the front so we could take photos.  It is something many of us could only dream of and here it was happening to me.

We then disappeared off to enjoy tea and various sandwiches and cakes provided by the Palace, all served of course on fine china. Sandwiches included cucumber and cream cheese, ham and mustard and carrot and cucumber. Sweets included carrot cake and mini strawberry choux pastries. So yummy! There was a fine brass band playing throughout the afternoon, with hits from Mary Poppins and The Great Escape. It actually made me really emotional!!

Once we left the Palace, as we waited for our lift just up the road we managed to steal a ‘private’ wave from the Duchess – she looked right at us and waved!!! It topped off what had been a truly amazing experience for us both.

 

 

It seems only fitting that our raffle money this month is going to the charity No Panic. Attending the Garden Party was never going to be entirely stress-free and easy for me, but I did it and with some help from this charity and their resources. They are a great little charity and I’m proud to support them.

Thank you everyone for your continued support, what a lucky girl I am to have you all sharing in this vision I had for The Welbeloved Club. Long may it continue!

Our chosen charity this month to receive our raffle money is No Panic, a fantastic charity supporting those with anxiety, depression and anxiety attacks. I received a lovely thank you letter from them after making the donation.

Our next lunch is a quick turnaround as we head back to the first Sunday of each month. We’ll see you on Sunday 2nd June!

Sunday 14th April – a special Easter

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I can’t believe Easter is upon us! The time is passing so fast – I can’t believe we are at our fourth lunch of the year already.

Easter is an important time for us at The Welbeloved Club as like Christmas, we have many guests who are likely to be spending the occasion alone. Not everyone celebrates the Easter festivities, but we all reap the benefits – especially the long weekend! For some however, Easter just means more time on your own. Shops are closed, families and neighbours are away, and normal routines are disrupted.

Last year, nationwide charity The Silverline (who provide a 24-hour helpline for lonely older people) reported they received A CALL A MINUTE over the Easter weekend. I imagine this year was no different, with more people than ever feeling that sting of loneliness over the Spring time annual holiday.

With this in mind, we were determined to give our guests a lunch to remember and I hope we did just that. We hosted 92 guests this month – our largest number yet! We have had a further 6 people sign up so it’s time to purchase even more equipment and resources! We need to continue fundraising for vital supplies including equipment, ingredients, admin costs (older people prefer written communications!), transport, venue hire…the list goes on!

Money aside, the fact we are at capacity now each month is a testament to the hard work we are all putting in. Sure, Mum and I are doing the leg work month to month to keep the club going, but on the day it’s all down to the fantastic, generous, hardworking volunteers we have. Everything runs like clockwork on the day and the guests have a great experience from start to finish. One of our guests said, ‘it was so nice to have a room full of chatter, I don’t hear that anymore’.

I think as a team; we sometimes forget what our guests come away with. Yes, they have full bellies, probably more wine than they should and often a raffle prize or two. However, we must remember the very fact that, for 2-3 hours on the loneliest day of the week, we have provided a safe, loving, and welcoming environment for them to escape to. That alone goes beyond anything we could provide materialistically. We were delighted to see that Jean, one of our regulars, had been given a Welbeloved Club ‘gift voucher’ by her family! The voucher paid for three lunches as part of a birthday present. How wicked is that!

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Lunch this month was also a massive treat as it was of course, roast lamb. Many of our guests say anyway they don’t often have a hot meal anymore as it’s too much like hard work making it just for one person, but lamb is something they certainly don’t make for themselves! Our butcher Bob again did us a fantastic deal and provided the most delicious produce.

You would think a two-course meal would leave no room for extras, but you are wrong! Thanks to one of our super volunteers Felicity, our guests were also able to enjoy some homemade, personalised cupcakes to celebrate Easter. They were so yummy and beautiful; we really are so grateful. With her leftovers, Felicity took the rest into work and managed to raise a further £100 for The Welbeloved Club. Happy days! Thank you also to everyone who donated an Easter egg for our raffle, we had lots to give away!

I really must also thank our stand-in driver Jen who not only drove the bus this month but also stayed for the duration to help us out. What a lifesaver!

Behind the scenes, I have been working hard on applying for small and big grants to secure our future. With the help of work colleagues, I have submitted a grant to hopefully purchase a new oven. The new oven will enable us to provide even more lunches and who knows, even open a second club.

I also submitted a big grant in the hope I can secure a small salary for myself to again, expand the club. As you can imagine, the club has become so big I am now spending most evenings and every weekend doing admin and general outstanding tasks. I want to keep communication at the highest standard, and I want to now start networking and building relationships with the local community and schools. All of this requires time, time that I do not have while working full-time!

One of our volunteers Paul supported me with this large grant, and what a phenomenal support it has been! Not only does Paul travel back from Leicester every month to help on the day, he also worked really hard on this application. He works full-time as a University lecturer, so to find time to help me has meant the world. We won’t know until October, but fingers crossed something comes of it.

Just on a side note, I was delighted to receive my official invite from Her Majesty The Queen to attend one of her garden parties on 21stMay. The invite came with all sorts of information, and it just feels so surreal. I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be invited to Buckingham Palace for my work setting up The Welbeloved Club. It really will be one of the most special moments in my life to date!

Our raffle money this month is to Rape Crisis England and Wales, who do fantastic work in supporting victims of rape and sexual abuse. See you on 12th May for our next lunch!

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