Community spirit in a neighbourhood is a key element of a caring society and I’ve recently seen a great example of Doncastrians looking after their fellow residents by preparing them a hearty meal every month.
It was at St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Beckett Road, Doncaster, where I was invited to the community lunch, which takes place on the third Monday of every month and is regularly attended by over 40 people from the town for the bargain price of just £2.50.
Organiser Michael Burdis asked me along after reading an article called Social Solutions in a British Heart Foundation magazine. It highlighted the benefits to people who feel unwell of looking beyond the normal medical care they get from the NHS by encouraging them to engage in healthy activities that include mixing with other people to avoid loneliness and, sometimes, prevent anxiety and depression.
Michael wanted me to see what the team at St Andrew’s have been offering for over 20 years – a freshly cooked three course lunch, comprising home-made soup, a main course served with fresh or frozen vegetables and locally sourced meat, followed by a dessert and drinks. It’s all prepared on site and served by church volunteers, who do their best to meet all dietary needs and I have to say that it is delicious.
The place was buzzing, with people catching up on news of each other and sharing stories.
I sat next to 82-year-old Cynthia Gill, who still lives in the same Intake home she was born in. Cynthia told me about the days before the NHS when her parents had to pay a few pence each week to the ‘doctors club’, so they could see a GP if anyone in the family was ill.
I met Katie Waite, a sharp as a tack 89-year-old mum of five who started the luncheon club 22 years ago with her former school teacher husband, George, who has sadly since died. Katie has missed only one lunch in all that time.
I also saw four generations of the same family whose connection with the luncheon club extends back to the start –Dorothy Isle, 86, her daughter Tracey Hancock, 55, grand-daughter Laura Goose,29, and great grandsons Lucas, 5, and one-year-old Jack.
I chatted to Joan Fizio, 63, who suggested to me that what we needed was a place where people could meet up to avoid being isolated, as she felt many went to see their GP for that reason.
In Doncaster we have a service called social prescribing that helps with just that. Your GP or health professional can easily refer you to it. The social prescribing team will contact you, discuss what might help and then sign-post you to a community group that you choose. They may even go with you for your first visit.
Being well is not just about the absence of illness or disease, it’s about being happy and supported in your daily life.