Our warm welcome project started as a response to the cost-of-living crisis both nationally and in our own local town. My role as a Church Related Community Minister started in July 2022 with a target to link church and community together, addressing the issues of isolation, loneliness, and food poverty. Our warm welcome is a project that meets all of these needs in a simple but positive way.
After acquiring some funding from Community Action Northumberland, we started out small with a few volunteers, a simple rota, and a bulk purchase of instant soup mix.
It was an instant hit… apart from the soup mix. I liked it, but quite frankly people wanted something better. So a couple of volunteers offered to make homemade soup. We had all sorts; tomato and basil, carrot and coriander, potato and leek, homemade broth, the list goes on…
This then led to volunteers starting to try and outdo each other with their soups, leading to a mini version of Bake Off.
We recruited more volunteers until we had a firm team of about 12 coming to the hub on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The local co-op donated packs of rolls every day and we established a system of at least two choices of homemade soup every day.
Another volunteer then offered to bring cheese in and then some more started baking.
By the end of the Warm Welcome, people who came had about 3 different soups to choose from as well as bread, cheese, and a variety of cake. The generosity of volunteers who made soup and cake for free was overwhelming.
But I think the best bit was seeing the difference the warm welcome has made on people. Friendships have been made, a relationship has started, and two members have just gone on a week’s holiday together. It has changed people’s lives, some have started coming to church, some have gotten involved with other activities. One member said that they would be lost without the warm welcome and how wonderful it was to have a warm meal three times a week.
We even did home deliveries. We discovered that there were several residents living nearby who just couldn’t get to the hub, so three times a week we took them some soup and a roll and had a bit of a chat on the doorstep.
It’s a project I’m incredibly proud of, but I’m really just the organiser. The endless generosity and enthusiasm from the volunteers with their soup making, cake making, and deliveries has turned this project into something that is really special.
It quickly became clear that although our warm space was due to end at the end of March, it really was a lifeline to people and we couldn’t just stop altogether, so throughout the summer we are meeting every Monday 10 – 12pm for coffee and cake. You’ll not be surprised to read that we have a variety of cake to choose from.
We are already looking forward to starting up again in October where soup and home deliveries will resume once more. But in the meantime, those friendships and relationships will continue and people in Wooler may no longer be as lonely as they might have been without this initiative.