The Welbeloved Club's first Christmas dinner is a festive feast they'll never forget
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A total of 89 elderly people who would otherwise have been alone came together for a festive feast on Sunday – sourced by Indie readers via our Christmas Dinner Appeal.
They were guests of The Welbeloved Club, the community initiative launched by 26-year-old Thorley Park woman Jo Gill in February to combat social isolation among senior citizens and named in memory of her great-grandmother, Doris Welbeloved.
On the first Sunday of each month, scores of elderly people gather at the Sawbridgeworth Memorial Hall for a £5 two-course lunch and, more importantly, company.
For the club’s December lunch, which doubled as its Christmas meal, Indie readers and businesses paid hundreds of pounds to donate all the food, drink, table centrepieces, decorations and even gifts required to give the event the full festive flavour.
The elderly diners enjoyed a good meal of turkey and all the trimmings, Christmas pudding with mince pie and brandy sauce or cream, followed by tea or coffee. The Prosecco, wine and soft drinks flowed.
They also enjoyed entertainment from Mandeville Primary School’s choir and a raffle, featuring hampers donated by Waitrose, and went home with two or three gifts each generously supplied by local businesses, individuals and schoolchildren.
Most importantly, they went home having enjoyed social interaction and the company of their peers.
Jo, a former student of Birchwood High School who works for the St Elizabeth’s Centre at Perry Green, said: “For many of our members, this would have been their only Christmas meal of the year as some will be alone on Christmas Day. As a result, it was incredibly important we gave them an afternoon to remember. I think we did just that.
“As a result of Indie readers’ kind generosity, we were able to provide a two-course meal for 89 guests and really bring the community together.
“The Indie readers have really taken The Welbeloved Club into their hearts and I’ll be forever grateful for the support in my mission to end loneliness.”
The food was prepped, cooked and served by a team of more than 20 volunteers led by Jo’s mum Gill, who is chief cook.
Gill said: “Indie readers definitely came up trumps with the food items. Everything was fresh and there was plenty to go around.
“I’m not sure how much our volunteers enjoyed preparing 7.5kg of Brussels sprouts, but our guests thoroughly enjoyed eating them as there wasn’t even one left over! After the meal, so many people said how much they enjoyed it and how nice it was to have fresh vegetables.
“I couldn’t believe that after a huge dinner and Christmas pudding and mince pies that so many of the guests had room for seconds. Just goes to show how much they loved it!
“Thanks to each and every one of you that took the time to pledge and donate as you made 89 people extremely happy.”