Cash award a timely boost for Gorleston free meal service

A CASH award has provided a timely boost for a weekly free meal service for the residents of an area of Gorleston.

The Bridge Drop-in Centre received �5,000 after winning a public vote to decide which community projects should receive funding.

The money has secured the future of the Tuesday lunch club at St Mary Magdalene Church Hall for a year.

Hungry diners gathered to celebrate this week and enjoy a hearty meal of vegetable soup, lasagne and cherry pie.

Lunches for up to 50 people are provided by a team of volunteers including cooks Tracey McDonald and Sharron Keighley.

Sharron, from Bradwell, used to work as a chef at a hotel, and is hoping to find a job in catering and hospitality.

She said: “It is enjoyable just knowing we are helping the community. We have had no complaints about the food, in fact they all love it. Roast pork and lasagne are among the favourites.”

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Volunteers are given training in self-confidence, communication skills and food hygiene as part of the Look Ahead programme.

Apart from cooking the meals, the team meet and greet diners, and wash and tidy up. Running for the last two years, the lunches have proved popular.

A retired grocer and plumber, Alan Ellison has been volunteering at the lunch club since it started and takes a register of those attending.

He said: “I have been lucky to have had a job all my life and want to put something back as a thank you. My knees are not what they were so I need to sit down, but I can still think.”

Diners expressed their delight that The Bridge had been given the cash from the government’s participatory budgeting fund.

Pensioner Margaret Brown has been attending the lunches since her husband Ramon died two years ago.

She said: “I have made a lot of new friends coming here and the meals are lovely. I enjoy the food and the friendship and thought it was excellent that the group received the funding. It has so much support in the community.”

Danny Cass, from Gorleston, said: “I have been coming here for a few months, done some courses and have made friends. I live on my own, so it is nice to get out and meet people.”

A total of �10,000 was provided for community initiatives in the Magdalen, Elmhurst Court and Shrublands areas of Gorleston.

The bidding process and vote was organised by Gorleston community organisation MESH.

The other winners were Magdalen Community Association and Shrublands Social Club.

Bridge project development worker Louise Bullen said: “I am really pleased we won the MESH money, it really made a huge difference. We can continue to cook three course meals each week for between 40 and 50 diners.

“There is a mix of people from the neighbourhood attending, some are single parents, some have mental health issues and others are elderly. They all enjoy the food and the opportunity to make new friends.”