Sunday 4th November saw us cater for the highest number of guests yet – 82 people! We had lots of new faces come and join us which was great to see, and lots of familiar faces with a new-found energy and commitment to making new guests feel welcome.
This month, our Armistice celebrations were made possible through a grant from East Herts Council. The grant enabled us to purchase decorations, hire a fantastic singer and give each guest a small gift from The British Legion shop. We were so fortunate to have this grant, as the scheme was so popular with many applications. I’m pleased to say it was a huge success, and probably our best lunch yet!
I think we all agreed, there was a fantastic atmosphere in the hall. There was so much happiness and joy among guests and volunteers, and you could really feel that everyone was leaving on such a high. Going forward, providing entertainment at the end of dinner is something I want to try and factor into our budget month to month!
When guests booked in this month, we asked if they could wear red, white and blue, in keeping with our Armistice theme. Everyone arrived very colourful! We were also so fortunate that one of our regular guests Charles Foster arrived wearing all his medals, including the legion d’honneur he was awarded several years ago, honouring the efforts he made for the people of France during World War ll. Our singer Diane certainly made a fuss of him, as did everyone else! Many of our guests were approaching Charles throughout the afternoon, considering it an absolute honour to meet him, and thank him for his service. Our youngest volunteer Tallulah was among those wanting to speak with Charles and had a chance to show him her own medal from the British Citizen Youth Award ceremony.
On the menu this month was beef cobbler, followed by ginger sponge and sauce. Can you believe, we had quite a few guests say they had never had cobbler before! As always, mum and her team of volunteers absolutely smashed it, making the savoury cheese scones from scratch, as well as the pudding and sauce. For me and definitely for mum, making our meals from scratch is something we feel strongly about. Our guests are coming for company, but they are also coming for a home cooked meal – something they now miss out on as they don’t cook for themselves anymore. Every detail of the afternoon makes for a good experience, and enjoying the food is something we strive for!
It became very clear to me when we were setting up that the expansion of the club is not slowing down. We had to make an inventory of what we had and didn’t have, and we have so far had to spend an additional £200 on more equipment and crockery, so we can continue to cater for the growing numbers! It feels now we are starting to find our rhythm each month and are now becoming a well-oiled machine. New volunteers are being guided by volunteers who have been with us from the start (they don’t need me!), and I feel everyone is made to feel welcome both as guests and as volunteers.
I need to touch on what has been happening since the 4th November, if you haven’t already seen it across our social media platforms, and in the local newspaper. Firstly, it was an absolute pleasure to hear from my secondary school, Birchwood High School. They got in touch with me to ask whether I would like to be their key note speaker at this year’s year 11 GCSE certificate ceremony. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there in person, but I was able to record a video speech, and send my Mum and my Nana in my place. It gave me a chance to tell the current year 11s all about my life up to this point, and how The Welbeloved Club even came about, and why I had the idea in the first place. It also gave me the chance to tell them what I could have done with hearing when I was their age, but to also reinforce what this is all about. Kindness. Whether it’s loneliness or something else, use your voice to make a difference.
I also had the chance to tell them all about Doris Welbeloved’s husband, Charles Thomas Welbeloved, who had an inspirational career in the military during his 30 years (and 120 days!) service.
Secondly however, I have to talk about The Bishop’s Stortford Independent, and the incredible efforts Editor Paul and Editorial Assistant David have gone to in order to pull off our next lunch in style. I don’t quite know where to begin, all I can really say is thank you.
Paul and David came to me with the idea of launching an appeal to the Indie’s readers, to see if we could ask for pledges on items we need for our Christmas lunch on the 16th December. Long story short, the appeal went live with a shopping list of over 200 items and in less than 12 hours the whole appeal had been fulfilled. None of us could keep up with demand and I believe no other work could get done in the Indie office the next day! I don’t know what I can say that will truly reflect the level of gratitude and express just how overwhelmed we feel by the kindness extended to us.
Even though the appeal was complete, donors were still coming forward with raffle prizes, gifts for our guests, offers of help, refreshments and much more. It is more than we could ever have hoped for, and we are just so grateful for the support. I’ve said it a few times, but the 16th December will act as a Christmas Day for many of our guests. Some won’t receive many presents, and some won’t have a Christmas dinner. Thanks to all of YOU, those guests are set to have the best day ever on the 16th, and will probably be the best Christmas they have had for years.
One thing the exposure from the Indie has done is increase awareness of the club. As a result, I have been shown such kindness in the form of cards, messages, emails and offers of help. So many people have said how proud they are of me and how they hoped I felt proud of myself, and my neighbour said she hoped her daughter would grow up to be just like me. It’s probably the biggest compliment anyone could pay me, and I feel truly touched. As I said in my speech though, I don’t run the club for admiration or praise, I do it to serve as an example that if I can make a difference, literally anyone can! Imagine if everyone did something similar for a cause they felt so passionately about – what a happy world we would live in.
The 16th will see us host a Christmas lunch with a visit from Santa, gifts from Indie readers, school children from Churchfield in Enfield and now from NKD in London! We also host a school choir from Mandeville Primary School in Sawbridgeworth, new volunteers, and a short video being filmed from my friend James at HNE Media. Check back here in a month’s time for an update on how it went!