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Finding friendship on Valentine’s Day

13 February 2013


For one West Midlands group, Valentine’s Day is a great excuse for a communal dinner with friends. BIG’s Lucy Pickering recently visited The Friendship Club, and explains in this blog how it reaches out to isolated older people with services which are nothing short of a lifeline.

The Friendship Club is based in St Alban’s Community Centre in Smethwick, Sandwell. Open to all, it’s attended mainly by older members of the local community who benefit from the company of others.

The organisers offer activities as wide-ranging as bingo sessions, gentle exercise and cake decorating. In addition to these regular activities and day trips, the club also hosts special events around key dates and celebrations. In the approach to this Valentine’s Day, the members were treated to a roast beef dinner, strawberry shortcake and live entertainment.

“We hold bi-monthly themed events at the club,” says treasurer, Louise Denneny. “We decorate the room, the members have a three course meal and then we enjoy some live entertainment. Some of the members get up and have a dance and others are happy to sit and sing along. Everybody has a really lovely time.”

The Friendship Club received close to £10,000 from BIG’s Awards for All programme under the repeat and ongoing activities pilot. The group grew out of St Alban’s lunch club and organisers felt an appetite for the members to spend longer at the club.

Older people eating at a friendship club

Local older people enjoy a tasty Valentine’s dinner

The group continue to work in partnership with the centre; St Alban’s arrange for a minibus to collect the members and the Friendship Club provides activities. This allows isolated and physically immobile members of the community to visit the club.

Louise said: “It’s fantastic to see the difference that the club’s events and activities make to our members lives. Without the club, some members wouldn’t see anyone from one day to the next, so it’s great to see them light up when they arrive.”

John attends the club every weekday and being in this welcoming environment has helped him to improve his speech following a series of strokes.

He said he’s made many friends and that coming to the Friendship Club means “everything” to him. Feedback such as his is a just reward for the hard-working staff who ensure the service survives.

Lucy Pickering is Communications Officer for Big Lottery Fund West Midlands region

Want to know more about our Awards for All programme? Visit the programme page for further information on small grants from £300 to £10,000. The application deadline for the pilot, for ongoing and activities, is 31 March 2013.

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