Renewed hope for Norwich church’s popular lunch club
Yesterday following a successful appeal for new volunteers Roy Hansell, the 89-year old founder of St Luke’s Lunch Club, and his wife Mary who is Head Cook, stood down after 30 years of service at a Christmas community meal attended by the Lord Mayor of Norwich.
Roy and Mary Hansell started St Luke’s Lunch Club in Mile Cross, Norwich in 1986 and have run it for the past 31 years, a commitment which was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2013 with the awarding of a British Empire Medal.
Yesterday, however, the couple, with four other members of their volunteer team, served their last community meal at St Luke's Church on Aylsham Road. The Christmas dinner attended by the Lord Mayor of Norwich Cllr David Fullman was enjoyed by around 55 elderly people from the surrounding area.
Speaking before the meal, Rev John Easton, a member of St Luke’s Church said: “At Christmas we thank God for Jesus. We thank him that love came down and dwelt amongst us. And we’ve seen so much of that love demonstrated through the luncheon club week by week by the volunteers and by the organisation of Mary and Roy who bring people together for this time that we so enjoy to have fellowship with one another.”
After the meal the Lord Mayor presented poinsettias to past and present volunteers, as well as gifts to the retiring team from club members.
The Lunch Club, which runs every Wednesday from 10am - 3pm, provides a nutritious two course meal for elderly people in the community, as well as good company and a varied programme of entertainment.
It takes a team of 10 people to effectively run the club but with six volunteers including the Secretary and Head Cook leaving, the Vicar of St Luke’s Rev David Austin issued an appeal on BBC Radio Norfolk, Network Norfolk and in the local community for new volunteers.
To the expressed delight of many of the club's elderly members, new volunteers have come forward, responding to the appeal through different avenues, including through the media appeals, from groups with links to the church including City Saints and a family group running at St Augustine’s Church. Every second week the team from The Catherine Wheel Pub on St Augustine’s Street have volunteered to help. Members of the newly forming team describe the task as a "hard act to follow".
Speaking for himself and other retiring volunteers, Roy said: “We had to go. What we found was that our best before date changed into our used by date. And we’ve been well and truly used! We could no longer lift the tins and do the shopping. I don’t want to retire. A Christian never retires. He can always pray for things. It’s still our duty to do that.”
Roy said: “I will miss the fellowship, although I’m so glad to say that we have got new people to run it and that is a success. It’s not my baby, it’s the church’s baby. It’s the outreach. It’s the most consistent outreach the church has had.”
Rev David Austin would still love to hear from anyone willing to help in the kitchen, to help befriending, entertaining, offering transport, with the shopping, with publicity and accounts or as a first aid officer.
If you could offer your time to this valued community service please contact vicar Rev Sarah Quantrill, 01603 496067 email email@example.com
Photo (right – left): Roy Hansell, Lord Mayor of Norwich Cllr David Fullman, Rev John Easton and his wife Jean and Tony Barton, St Luke’s PCC Secretary.