By Liz Webster / email@example.com
A SHIREHAMPTON lunch club which has been running for more than 13 years could be facing closure after having its funding cut
Every week a group of 25 pensioners are picked up and taken to The Ridge Community Centre, in Oaktree Court, for lunch and a chat. Many live alone and for some it is the only time they get out of the house.
Sandra White, 66, who set up the club, starts work at 6.30am every Tuesday preparing food and organising games of bingo. She is helped by a team of volunteers who all give up their time to support the club.
Mrs White said: “I set the club up because I thought it was something that was lacking in Shirehampton.
“We’ve grown steadily in numbers over the years and we have people from Avonmouth and Shirehampton.
“Some of them are over 90, some have learning difficulties, and lots of them don’t see anyone else for the rest of the week. There are five in hospital at the moment.
“We use the room for free but we get a £700 social services grant from the council. We use this to pay for the transport for a few months and it really is vital.
“Now we’ve been told that it is going to be cut.”
Attendees pay £3.50 for their two-course meal and can sit from 10.30am to 1.30pm chatting to other lunch clubbers. Mrs White refuses to put up her prices and is looking for alternatives to help her keep the club going.
She said: “I think £3.50 is enough for the dinner, I can’t make them pay anymore.
“I never make a profit, I just cover the costs as I make a lot of the food myself.
“I was up making an apple crumble the other night. I try and run a raffle and a bingo and sell a few bits and pieces to add to the pot but our biggest cost is transport.
“The old people look forward to coming here and when they don’t turn up I ring them, check they are OK, I visit them in hospital and I go to their funerals. I wouldn’t be without them – I don’t know what I would do.”
Violet Easthope, 91, of Seamills, said: “I’ve been coming here for a few years. I live alone and it’s a nice lunch and a good day out. I wouldn’t want them to stop it.”
Kenneth Hale, 75, from Avonmouth, said: “The volunteers all work very hard. I’ve made a few friends coming here and it’s great.”
Doreen Starr, 84, who lives in Rockingham Gardens, added: “I’d be very upset if this closed. I live on my own and it’s wonderful to come along and take part in the raffle and have lunch.
“It gives me something to look forward to.”
Pat Lockyer, 68, who lives in Portway, is one of the team of volunteers that serve the teas and hot food.
She said: “I got involved to keep me busy after my husband passed away. There is a lovely crowd here and they do so much good for the people that come. It would be awful to have to close.”
A Bristol City Council spokeswoman said: “Lunch clubs provide a valuable service but following a recent review of services the Penpole Lane Community lunch club does not meet criteria for a direct grant. Council officers will be working with the Penpole Lunch Club to ensure that current club users have their care needs met.
“This is part of a move to ensure that individuals receive more choice and control about how their care needs are met and club members may still wish to purchase services directly from them using their personal budget. The lunch club may also apply to their Neighbourhood Partnership to meet any shortfall to keep the service running.”
If anyone can help with funding or transport for the club then please get in touch with Mrs White via the Evening Post on 0117 9343240.