For those of you that have been following The Welbeloved Club, you will know that right from the off, our demand has been phenomenal. First and foremost, it is the biggest compliment anyone could pay us, that they love coming to have lunch with us so much that we had to plan for expansion quite quickly. All of the stress linked to expanding is softened greatly by this level of support.
I warn you now – this blog post is mainly going to be full of thanks and praise to lots of people but please do read it…it’s a shining example of the local community coming together.
The need for expansion is just one piece of the puzzle. Facilitating this huge task (and it really is a huge task) is another ball game. It has meant we have been calling on all sorts of people for help and support, shamelessly asking for donations or second-hand equipment, marketing exposure, volunteers, advice and so on. You name it, we’ve asked for it! So, it’s only right we firstly thank the following people and local businesses for their incredible support in making this happen:
Peter and Trish at Sawbridgeworth Memorial Hall – I approached them a few months ago about potentially using their hall as a new venue for our lunches and the support we have had since has been more than we could ever have hoped for. They made a huge investment in new equipment for us, both crockery-based items and the servicing of the oven, a new extractor fan and installing a dishwasher. They continue to be on hand any time of day and came in on Sunday to support us. No problem has been too big or too small, thank you. A huge thank you also to Debbie at The Hailey Centre, who let us borrow the huge pots and pans whilst we sort our own.
All of the support from local businesses – Stephen Butchers, Bishop’s Stortford Independent, Nockolds Solicitors, Nevilles UK, Buzz Catering, Bishop’s Stortford Bowls Club…the list goes on! You have all played a huge part in our success, especially our expansion. Fundraising, discounts, exposure, donations, you’ve done it all and with no questions asked.
Jean Palfreman – you absolute star! For many, to never hear the term GDPR again would be too soon. We have a lot of sensitive data, and Jean (who works full time anyway) revised all of our documents, policies and procedures to ensure we were GDPR compliant. It’s something that could have shut us down so I’m so grateful for your expertise on this.
Our team of volunteers! Wow, what a team you are. I mention you every time I write a blog, but it’s important I tell you how much you contribute to the success of this project. I planned and planned and planned for Sunday, but there was no way of me actually pulling it off without you all. We had more to do this month, and not just because we were feeding more people. We had setting up and clearing away to do, packing and unpacking boxes, and mainly – using our imagination for a lot of things! Teething problems were expected but there wasn’t anything you guys weren’t prepared to do. To those of you who do our laundry, driving, shopping…gahhh where does the list end?? I can’t say any more than THANK YOU. We’ve had a few missing the past few months as we come into holiday season but I can’t wait to have you all back!
And my Mum! Mum I know you are probably going to cry reading this but it doesn’t take much these days! Mum (with a team of sweaty, amazing volunteers) made a two course HOT meal for just over 70 people on Sunday. Not only this, but she took charge of basically ordering everything we were going to need and worked tirelessly throughout the month to make sure we were as ready as we could be. Other than signing up the newbies, I barely did a thing (I did pick the chicken up, to be fair)! I put a solid 10-hour shift in the day before, but all credit goes to Mum. Get this though, half way through she had a bit of a moment, and felt she was ‘letting people down’, and not in control of the situation. Mum, I hope you realise this club would be absolutely nothing without you. My ‘idea’ was just that, an idea. Our guests come for food and my god, do they get it. Thank you for recognising and supporting what I’m trying to do.
Right, now for some stats. Very briefly, to pull this off we spent in the region of £700-800. That’s not including the kind support we have received from outside parties. Thanks to all of you, we’ve been able to keep at a steady flow and managed to keep enough in the bank to purchase everything we’ve needed.
We served over 70 meals on Sunday, to both guests and volunteers. Imagine the atmosphere in that room! We’ve all come together for one reason – being together is better than being alone.
Now, I can’t leave without talking about our wonderful guests. Oh how wonderful they are! Every time one of us came back to the kitchen, we had a conversation to repeat. I think we would all agree, the best thing about getting to a certain age is the lack of ‘filter’, and the decreasing worry of being ‘careful what you say’. I want to share some of our recent success stories as this is ultimately the most important part of The Welbeloved Club, and what our whole constitution is based around.
We have two ladies who joined a few months ago. They both live alone, they are both lonely and both find Sundays particularly difficult. These two ladies sat next to each other the month before last and got chatting almost instantly. Jump forward a few months, I’m told they not only exchanged numbers, but they’ve been for lunch with each other TWICE! Côte in Stortford I believe was one ‘date’. I mean, wow. I had always hoped this sort of thing would happen but to actually hear it is such an incredible feeling.
The second story I wanted to share with you was about a new lady we had join us for lunch this month. I spoke to her daughter a few weeks before and arranged a welcome pack to go out. I then spoke to the lady herself a few days later as she was feeling very anxious about coming. She explained to me that she has come to terms with the fact she is lonely, but at 84 she feels very ‘out of touch’ with how to make new friends. The day arrived and I was pleased to see she decided to come regardless of her anxieties. From the off I could see she was very nervous, with her asking if it would be ok to leave early if it wasn’t for her. I introduced her to a table and within an hour (I kid you not), she approached me and asked me to phone her daughter to cancel her lift. “Why?” I asked. “I’ve made friends with the lady sitting next to me and she is now going to take me home instead.” I could have cried right there on the spot. My work here is done!
It’s a longer blog than normal this month, but one full of successes, thanks and admiration that could not have been made any smaller! Our next lunch falls over the Bank Holiday weekend – Sunday 26thAugust. We have had to move our September lunch, so we now get a month off! Then service is resumed as normal in October.
Thank you all for reading, see you in a few weeks!