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Launch of Welbeloved Club brings cheer to lonely Stortford pensioners





Welbeloved Club founder Jo Gill, far right, with volunteers Verity Sutton and Harley Urwin and guest Charles Foster
Welbeloved Club founder Jo Gill, far right, with volunteers Verity Sutton and Harley Urwin and guest Charles Foster

Bishop's Stortford's elderly residents proved they have an appetite for a new initiative to banish loneliness.

The club was launched at the Hailey Centre in Sawbridgeworth but hopes to relocate to the New Apton Centre in Stortford
The club was launched at the Hailey Centre in Sawbridgeworth but hopes to relocate to the New Apton Centre in Stortford

Bishop’s Stortford’s elderly residents proved they have an appetite for a new initiative to banish loneliness.

In all, 48 pensioners attended the launch lunch of the new Welbeloved Club, set up by 25-year-old Jo Gill to provide company and a slap-up Sunday roast for those who live on their own.

Jo, a care navigator for Age UK Essex, named the over-65s club after her great-grandmother, Doris Welbeloved, who lived in Apton Road. She had to move to a nursing home in Widford after suffering a number of strokes before she died in 2004, aged 94, and Jo increasingly became concerned about the plight of those elderly people who do not enjoy family support and become isolated.

She crowdfunded cash to get the club, currently held at Sawbridgeworth’s Hailey Centre, off the ground and secured a grant from Bishop’s Stortford Town Council. A two-course meal and unlimited refreshments will cost £5, but January, February and March are free – hence the start-up appeal.

Jo Gill, left, with mum Gill, centre, and her grandmother Mary Ward
Jo Gill, left, with mum Gill, centre, and her grandmother Mary Ward

Jo, who recently joined the trustees of the town’s Age Concern charity and hopes to relocate to the New Apton Centre if cooking facilities are upgraded, said: “I think everyone had a really great afternoon.

“We had 48 guests, a mix from Stortford and Sawbridgeworth. I had to prioritise as the club was so popular, so everyone in the room were people living on their own.”

They included 95-year-old Charles Foster, from Bishop’s Stortford, who lost his wife Eileen a year ago and now lives alone.

They enjoyed a main course of roast beef with all the trimmings and a dessert of apple crumble with custard, all made by Jo’s mother, Gill. The meal was followed by tea and coffee with biscuits and a raffle.

Jo with 10-year-old volunteer Tallulah Deeks
Jo with 10-year-old volunteer Tallulah Deeks

There was a team of 17 volunteers, the youngest of them 10-year-old Tallulah Deeks. “It was a total team effort and I simply couldn’t have done it without them,” said Jo.

“The feedback was lovely. A lot of people said it had really brightened up their day as they normally sit indoors on their own most Sundays.

“Many said they got chatting to people they’d never met before and felt they had made friends for life already. I don’t think I could have hoped for better. Nobody deserves to be lonely.”

For more information about the lunch, which takes place on the first Sunday of the month from noon, see https://thewelbelovedclub.com. Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/thewelbelovedclub



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