J C Lunch Club

Exminster, Devon

Your story

Food, Fun and Friendship!

Group introduction

Exminster houses a significant number of elderly folk. We decided to tackle the problems of loneliness, isolation and imprisonment they face.

In June 2015 we kicked off by inviting guests to a FREE lunch in the local Community Room. We chose VE Day in Europe as our theme. Since then we have gone from strength to strength. We offer a FREE freshly cooked simple and healthy meal (choice of two mains & two desserts) on the second Friday of each month. Each luncheon has a different theme (eg: seaside, animals, Scotland, Wales & Ireland, Love, Royal) with appropriate floral centrepieces, table-napkins, novelty cruet sets, and optional multi-choice easy Fun Quiz.

We hang bunting and balloons, put pictures on the walls, scatter Conversation Cards on the tables, and maybe have a silly game (Pass the Parcel). At Christmas we made crackers & wrapped small gifts for our guests distributed by Father Christmas who arrived on his Mobility Scooter. In February we baked “Take Heart” shaped biscuits for each to take home in a pretty gift bag; in June there was a Royal Teatime-Treat Box for the Queen’s 90th!
In January we were visited by the Teignbridge Council Inspector & awarded top Grade 5 (very good) for Food Hygiene. Our title is deliberately ambiguous! We use the Jubilee Close Community Room which has six tables. Our philosophy is outreach (“who is your neighbour”?) We run with a grand team of just six wonderful volunteers, all “wrinklies”: Bossy Beth (wheelchair-bound) does paperwork, accounts, invitations, reports, decorations and quizzes; Maureen prepares the two savoury dishes; Brenda sorts two delicious desserts. We use fresh local ingredients and opt for home-style cooking (Delia Smith) not fancy Masterchef stuff. We are aware that the daily routine of our housebound & limited mobility diners typically relies on processed supermarket meals from the handy village shop, so we strive to provide food which our guests enjoyed erstwhile but now wouldn’t bother to cook for themselves alone.

Mary and Anne help prepare the veggies and do the washing-up; Barbara is our Welcomer and Waitress, greeting everyone with a smile, a drink, and guiding them to a seat. At the end of each monthly meal, a basket (or empty Xmas Stocking, Doggy Bowl, Beach Bucket or decorated Cardboard Crown, as appropriate!) is passed round for voluntary donations. Most folk put in about £5 which covers the cost of ingredients. We don’t aim to make a profit – merely to cover expenses. It is important that no-one can give the excuse “I can’t afford to come ….”

We now have a table of men, which is encouraging because bereaved men often find socialising difficult. Our aim is to put sparkle into lives which have become boring, tedious and lonely. Our hope is to see everyone smile. Our inspiration is Mother Teresa of Calcutta who said “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier“ and “Loneliness is the leprosy of the modern world”.

How would this funding have an impact on your community?

We would dearly like to have a reliable cooker! The current 50cm cooker (see photo attached) in the community room is the very smallest and cheapest model available, and it gets awfully moody when we ask it to cook a large meal. On several occasions we have been obliged to carry dishes to heat them in the ovens of neighbours! We have measured the space available and consider a freestanding “family size” cooker 60cm wide would be a much better bet. We could get something with a double oven (one small and one large) plus a hob with four large hotplates. A decent size cooker which can cope with plenty of saucepans for the variety of healthy fresh veggies we prepare, would be wonderful! A good cooker would also ensure that we can thoroughly cook the main course(s) to the required temperatures. It would also enable us to warm the plates, which currently we do by immersing them in hot water.

As we have proved the spiralling success of the J C Lunch Club, and enthusiasm grows rather than diminishes, it would be really helpful for the stalwart team of noble cooks to have something which will make their work easier (and safer!) I think they deserve this as a reward for their diligent work and team spirit in all adversity. On the Health & Safety front, I consider that a cooker which can cope with the demands we ask of it is actually very important!

Research online reveals that there are several cookers for about £500 which would meet our requirements including delivery and proper installation. It would be terrific if Skipton can provide the Sparkle for our champion kitchen staff who are no longer in their first flush of youth and who struggle with the existing arrangements! John Lewis have a Rangemaster cooker, Currys/PC World have Hotpoints, and there are others on AO.Com. We do hope you can help and would be eternally grateful!

""Food, Fun & Friendship"

Beth Corbett, J C Lunch Club. secretary"