I haven’t written a blog since March, right when things were headed from bad to worse concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Having read it back, it seems we knew where things were heading in terms of ‘the peak and curve’, but who could have predicted what has since unfolded. It has been a truly devastating time for millions of people, and a moment in time we will be talking about for the rest of our lives. We have lived through a historic event, but on reflection I’m not sure how many people care too much given how catastrophic it has been on so many levels.
As for us, our main activity is hosting lunch for a large amount of people once a month. So, this of course has stopped. For quite some time, we have been acutely aware of how important club has become for so many people, even if it was only once a month. And it strikes me now that, given how vulnerable our members are to the virus, we are likely going to be one of the last services to resume. It’s unfair, it’s cruel and totally out of our control. We soldier on however in hard times, and we’ve done our bit to keep both our members and our community going.
As some of you will have seen through our social media, when everything closed down, I was approached by some parents at All Saints Primary School in Bishop’s Stortford. This was extra special for me as this is in fact my old primary school! So it’s like things had gone full circle. The parents asked me if I would be interested in working in partnership with them to host a Penpal scheme, whereby they ask their children to write some letters and I would pass them on to some of our members. Letters included pictures (mainly rainbows), photos and beautifully written letters, full of questions and happy thoughts. It was my job to read through and match the children up with who I thought would be a good pairing. Who could have known what a hit this would be?! After advertising what we were doing on Facebook, I was soon flooded with letters from children all over the area asking for a Penpal. I don’t know the exact number (not expecting the success I was so disorganised!) but I think I received maybe 30-40 letters in total.
Letters went out and friendships were born. Once things had relaxed, some of our members invited their new friend over for a socially-distanced tea in the garden, while some are still writing to each other now. For me, the most important thing was to hear what an impact this had had on the overall mood and health of our members. I was told by several what a pick-up it was, and how nice it was to know they hadn’t been forgotten. I was told it was also such a treat knowing they had something to do in the day, and a reason to leave the house and take a short walk to their nearest post-box. For the children, I believe it has been a very educational experience and one they have very much enjoyed. I’m so pleased we have been able to facilitate this. Once we are allowed, I’m hoping to arrange a Sunday lunch just for our new Penpals!
Another exciting development to share with you all is that, after nearly 3 years since our first lunch, we now have official charity status! I first had the idea for club 3 years ago this month, but I had known for a long time that a life goal of mine has always been to be the founder of a charity. I never knew what shape that charity would take and what the aims would be, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. I’m told prioritising everyone above myself all the time isn’t always the perfect trait to have, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
With official status comes lots of exciting developments. We now have an experienced board of Trustees, who can guide and advise me on decisions and future developments of The Welbeloved Club. It’s actually a new role for the majority of the board, so I feel really honoured they have chosen to take this step with me and not only further develop themselves, but share their enthusiasm for the club with me. Having this status also opens doors for us in terms of funding and support among many other things. So, it’s all positive news!
Around a month or so ago now, once social-distancing measures were put in place, we had the idea of arranging a ‘meals-on-wheels’ service, where we would attempt to identify 15 or so members that we feel could really benefit from a hot meal. This was not easy, and in reality all of our members could benefit for one reason or another. However, capacity meant we were only able to deliver 15 meals. We based our decision on next of kin information, what we knew about our members already and just our best judgement.
So every Sunday between 10am – 1pm, we are preparing, cooking, packaging and delivering hot meals! Prepared all in mum’s kitchen (inspected already by the council) with the help of some of our trusted volunteers, we are cooking a roast dinner and a pudding. We know it’s making a difference, and not just from a nutritional aspect. Our delivery drivers are finding that some of those receiving a meal are going all week without seeing or speaking to hardly anyone. Opening the door for their lunch is often the first or second time they have opened it all week, so seeing a person as well as lunch is proving just as important. It has reaffirmed why we are doing this and the huge difference it’s making. As club shows no signs of reopening just yet, I’m hoping we can increase the amount of meals we are doing and therefore help even more people.
We are doing the best we can to keep in touch with our members, while we can’t see them in person. We’ve so far done two mailings out, with a third one planned in the next week or so. Included in this mailing will be a fantastic FREE puzzle & info book, donated to us kindly by Home Instead Senior Care East Herts. They have given us 200 copies, and it’s packed full of different activities and information – I know our members will get a lot out of it.
If you’ve read this far – thank you! Often these blog posts are me rambling, and as it has been so long since my last one there has been a lot to cover! Thank you for your continued support of The Welbeloved Club – we truly would not still be running if it wasn’t for the support of our local community and those of you further afield, who simply love what we do and want to support.
If you or someone you know owns a local business or is in a position to host a collection pot for us, you can! Please just get in touch. Every little counts, especially in these current times. With our new found charity status, you can now also select us as your Charity of the Year! Again, please just drop us an email and we can give you more details.
Hopefully the next time I write, we will have a better idea of when we might be able to get back together.