Churches Together in Pawlett, a partnership between St John the Baptist Church and the Methodist Church, is one of 120 community groups in Somerset to open their doors and offer people somewhere warm and comfortable to go amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Here, volunteer Fiona, explains why they decided to set up a Warm Welcome space and the positive impact it’s having in her local community.
“Back in September, Churches Together in Pawlett identified that we had £700 in our joint bank account and we were determined to spend on the local community. So, we decided to set up a Warm Welcome space at the local Royal British Legion.”
“We also applied for additional funding from our local Parish Council, Somerset Community Foundation and the Asda Foundation. Our applications were successful and we agreed to launch during that strange and often lonely limbo period between Christmas and New Year.
Following a chat with Anne, Spark Somerset’s Community Engagement & Development Adviser, to ensure we had the right policies and certificates in place, we were ready to open our doors on Thursday 29 December and our venue was added to the Warm Welcome Somerset map.
“Pawlett is a village with a large number of people who live alone and by our second week we had several groups of mainly elderly ladies who were delighted to meet up for coffee, bacon baps, cakes and a good natter. Our volunteers were able to bring people who are usually housebound so that they can get out and be with others, and one week the ladies of the WI sat with their knitting, making squares to sew into blankets. Another regular is a young lady who lives alone and works from home. She has visited five times to break up her day and interact with the people she knows in the village.
“Loneliness is the scourge of the modern age and to see the happy faces of so many people enjoying good conversation, catching up with friends and making new ones was a joy to see."
“We have, however, had to temper the message of “cost of living crisis” in case people felt it wasn’t for them; like it was purely charitable and they weren’t eligible. We had a collection box for contributions for those who felt they could contribute and split the proceeds between the local Poppy Appeal and Bridgwater Foodbank. We also collected £47 for the Turkey/Syria Earthquake Appeal.
“Running the Warm Welcome space has been a collaborative process from the start and one of our strengths is knowing who does what best. My main job between the sessions has been to do the shopping. Every week I buy sausages and bacon from our local butcher, rolls from a local bakery and milk from a local farm, thereby supporting the local economy. I also did a Level 2 hygiene and catering course so that I could work in the kitchen. Personally, I’m a 'Jack of all trades' at Warm Welcome and do what needs to be done.
“Many years ago, when I was on a parent-teacher committee I was told “you’re never happier than when you’re feeding people” and nothing has changed."
"Selfishly, I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing we’re doing a great job. It has been a learning curve from week one, knowing what people like to eat, what they like to do – we organised games, there is free Wi-Fi and even a television but often people just want to chat!
“To use two overused expressions, I like making a difference and giving something back; when you are doing something in your community it’s immediate and you can see the effect. It’s hard work but very satisfying, especially because of the appreciation and thanks we have from people who have been our guests.
"One attendee told us he got to meet people he probably wouldn’t have otherwise and that it helped promote a good feeling - especially for older people like him who live alone. It was pretty humbling to learn what our Warm Welcome space meant to him.”
Find out how the Spark Somerset team can support you to set up, run or fund your community group here.