Until four years ago 81-year-old Joan Beck was still organising the delivery of Meals on Wheels in the Holme Valley.
It was a voluntary job she’d taken on 30 years earlier for the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (now the RVS).
Meals were collected from a Kirklees school kitchen and delivered four days a week to 20 of the Holmfirth area’s most vulnerable and isolated residents.
And then council subsidies for the service came to an end, the deliveries stopped and Meals on Wheels were no more in the Huddersfield area.
Today, however, Joan is involved with a new doorstep meals scheme – the brainchild of a group of friends from Wooldale and the surrounding area.
But instead of phoning drivers, organising delivery routes and picking up food, Joan is now the recipient of a hot lunch once a week.
Inspired by the Hairy Bikers’ Meals on Wheels campaign, the members of the Wooldale group began their service a few months ago with deliveries of fish and chips and sandwiches. In October they will be sending out a choice of hot, freshly-cooked meals.
The volunteers took their cue from the ‘Colander Girls’ of Slaithwaite, whose own Meals on Wheels scheme was featured in the Hairy Bikers’ television series. It was the first new Meals on Wheels scheme in the area and now includes the village of Golcar.
One of the Wooldale organisers, Angela Payne, says the Colne Valley group has given them a lot of valuable help and advice.
As it happens, Angela is a former colleague of one of the Colander girls, Sallyanne Green, founder of the Waves Centre for adults with special needs.
“We used to work together at Kirklees College,” said Angela, who was a lecturer in social sciences and communication.
“I bumped into her one day and she asked if we’d like to go across to Slaithwaite and see how they do it.
“Unfortunately it’s been quite a complicated process because it’s not just a matter of getting food and delivering it, there are all sorts of insurance, CRB-checking and health and safety regulations.”
Concerned about the costs of meeting all the requirements, the Wooldale group made grant applications and asked for help.
Angela said: “We were very lucky and the Co-op awarded us one of their community grants and the Holmfirth and Meltham Lions helped us with the tiffin tins that we needed to deliver the meals.”
The group has also had support from Holmfirth Methodist Church and another grant from the local One Foundation charity.
Back in the 1980s when Joan, who lives in Holmfirth, was a WRVS volunteer there weren’t quite as many rules and regulations to follow.
“But organising the service was virtually a full-time job,” says Joan, a former nurse and midwife.
“It was very difficult working out all the routes for the drivers as we covered the whole of the Holme Valley. And it shook us when Kirklees wrote to everyone to say that it was being stopped.”
“Meals were delivered to all sorts of people – the housebound, those coming out of hospital, people who were disabled – anyone who needed a hot meal got one.”
Although she has now given up driving, Joan will be offering support and advice to the new Wooldale service.
Public service is something dear to her heart. In fact, such was her commitment to helping others that she was awarded an MBE.
It’s clear that Angela also has a strong streak of social responsibility. As well as becoming one of the organisers for the new Meals on Wheels she is a Home Start volunteer helping isolated families in need and was a foster carer for 12 years.
Now they have their infrastructure in place, Wooldale and Holme Valley Villages Meals on Wheels (to give it its full title) wants to hear from anyone who would like a weekly hot meal delivered to their home. They also need more volunteer helpers.
Meals will be cooked by Neil Hirst at the Penny Lane Pantry in Holmfirth with vegetables and puddings provided by Holmfirth greengrocer Andrew Bray and delivered on Friday lunchtimes by volunteer drivers at a cost of £3.50.
In the Colne Valley around 50 meals a week are delivered but the Holme Valley group wants to start small with around 15 and then develop the service. At the moment they are delivering fish and chips or sandwiches to eight people on a weekly basis.
Both Angela and Joan see it as a sign of the times that voluntary bodies are now meeting the cost of social care in the community. In order to subsidise the service they will need to fundraise and attract grant funding.
But maybe their work – a revival of the charitable work started by the WRVS three-quarters of a century ago – will, in turn, inspire other groups around Huddersfield to reach out to the elderly, vulnerable and isolated.
If you’d like to know more about Meals on Wheels in the Holme Valley contact Angela Payne on 01484 681156 or Joan Firth on 01484 685009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The WVS was formed shortly before the Second World War in order to provide emergency rest and feeding centres. it supported the Air Raid Precaution service .
It became the WRVS in 1966 after receiving Royal Assent but dropped the women’s part of the name in 2004, becoming the RVS.
Although the organisation provides many services, for some it is strongly associated with Meals on Wheels.
Home deliveries of hot food to people in need were commonplace throughout the country for many years and received financial support from local authorities.
However, Meals on Wheels by the RVS came to an end in Kirklees four years ago.
Today the organisation has a hub in Wakefield from which it runs a frozen meals delivery service in and around West Yorkshire. It also provides a hot meal service to some areas.
Locality Manager for the region, Fazila Aswat, explained: “Meals on Wheels was funded through the council and the funding stopped – the meals were heavily subsidised.
“In Wakefield we made the decision to fully privatise the service which means we can’t sell the meals as cheaply. They cost £4.90 a meal. That’s because we have to meet all the health and safety and food hygiene regulations.
“We could organise deliveries in the Huddersfield area if there was a cluster of people who wanted them in one area.”
The RVS still runs a luncheon club in Lindley Methodist Church once a week during term time and hosts two Derby and Joan clubs – one at Holmfirth Methodist Church and the other at Huddersfield Town Hall.
Fazila added: “We also have a good neighbour service in Paddock which gives help to the over 55s when someone is discharged from hospital and we run trolley services in care homes in Paddock and Batley.”