I dropped in to chat with Valery Stepney and Ruth Armstrong, the stalwarts who administer and coordinate this volunteer service. The Luncheon Club is partially self-sustaining, from weekly contributions (£5.50 for the hot meal) by the luncheon guests, and partly supported by Age UK Northumberland. And also supported, when needed, by local grants and donations (example, the Co-op’s plastic bags scheme or the Pantomime’s raffle charity, or personal contributions).
Valery and Ruth cook, keeping all the proper food hygiene records, and help to coordinate a team of seven volunteers who set the tables, serve the food (to typically about 17 guests), clear up the dirty dishes, as well as the tidying and washing-up to round off the lunch. Both women simultaneously mentioned the efficient, commercial dishwasher as a god-send to supplement the volunteer efforts, and Valery was delighted with the newly renovated food service counter as well. The weekly service is carefully inspected by the county’s environmental health department, which is responsible for allocating a 5 star rating to the premises, thanks in good portion to the due diligence of the Luncheon Club’s administrators.
I asked Valery and Ruth how it felt to be delivering such a service, which also includes an exercise session at 11am before the lunch. They noted that the diners are always so appreciative of the volunteer effort, loving the warm and cosy environment of the New Hall, enjoying the opportunity for socialising and chat, and just getting out and about. The local ADAPT bus is hired to pick up the clientele from their homes, and deliver them back afterwards, for a nominal fee of £1 charged to each passenger. So the friendly band of workers feel that their time and effort is going into a valuable service to the older folks of the community, and that is a reward in and of itself.
Valery says that everyone is welcome to attend these Luncheon Club sessions, and she suggests that folks might like to take advantage of a free trial offer, to test out the service, before committing to a weekly date. But she asks kindly that people interested in coming out to eat should contact her first so that appropriate food quantities can be prepared. Similarly, she needs to know if clients are unable to attend, so that wastage can be minimised. So if someone reading this item would like to attend, or has a friend who might like to, there are a variety of ways to get in touch:
- You could drop in on a Thursday morning at 9:30 to chat with Valery, who will be busy getting ready for the lunch.
- You could contact John Hay, the Age UK Northumberland Day Care Coordinator for further information, on 01670 784 800 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And so, as the two ladies edged cautiously back into the kitchen, to continue with their preparations after chatting with me for a little while, I was struck yet again with the sense that a healthy community takes care of its own, cheerfully and willingly, without needing or expecting a great deal of fanfare. That’s a good feeling, isn’t it? But it doesn’t mean that a quiet word of appreciation would go amiss, either.