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Two intrepid former nurses have won a Yorkshire Housing award for their community cooking initiative to help prevent isolation among older members.

In 2016 Carol Mercer and Carys Roberts decided to set up a luncheon club at Neville Crescent Community Centre in Gargrave, North Yorkshire, to help elderly Yorkshire Housing residents who were not eating well and who were in danger of becoming socially isolated. The luncheon club provides home-cooked meals and even delivers them to residents who are unable to get out and about.

“We started it about two years ago in September,” said Carol. “We haven’t been in the village that long, about five years. We started coming to different events and we realised there was nothing like a luncheon club or something to stimulate people. We had a lot of support from Yorkshire Housing to get the money to start up.”

They initially promoted their club by word of mouth and leaflets in the local area. The club is now a popular fixture of the community with up to 22 people attending at a time. Carys said:

“We cook simple English food; roast beef, chicken and potatoes, everything your mum used to make. The profit we make goes back towards a meal or equipment for us.”

“It is a relaxed atmosphere” said Carol. “Like a bistro. It is not fine dining but it is nice. It is not just the lunch, people stay and play card games. It is so lovely to see it. You feel like you have done something good.”

The women were awarded last month with a certificate and vouchers by James Haigh, Yorkshire Housing community investment manager. James said: “This community initiative run by volunteers brings Yorkshire Housing customers together to share food, activities and reduce isolation. We thank the volunteers at Gargrave for committing their time to Neville’s Kitchen and welcome any other people living in Yorkshire Housing communities with similar ideas to contact us to try and make them a reality.”

“The award came out of the blue,” said Carol. “It is nice to be recognised but we are doing it because we want to do it and it keeps us going.”

“I am proud of it but we do it because we enjoy it too”, said Carys.

Carol and Carys said they couldn’t do it without the help of Sylvia Pickles and Jennifer Heselton. And they wanted a special mention for Caroline Leiper who helped them start up. “We would like more volunteers and support groups coming. Everyone over 50 is welcome,” said Sylvia.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer with Yorkshire Housing, visit our dedicated page here.

If you are thinking of a community project you can apply for a Yorkshire Housing Community Grant, which is up to £500 towards your project. For more information click here.