Connected Communities Project Visit – the Valentine Club

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Connected Communities Project Visit – the Valentine Club

A few weeks ago I visited the Valentine Club in the beautiful village of Steeple Aston. Richard the Chair, Alan the Vice Chair, the rest of the committee and attendees were in good spirits and very welcoming. There was a loud buzz of friends chatting, laughing and a sense of anticipation as the afternoon got underway. We were treated to an inspiring talk by Medical Detection Dogs, excellent refreshments, a raffle and a sales table.

The Club had 35 members when Richard took over and now has 100 members and a waiting list of 10 – 3 people asked to join the day I visited! Current members are aged between 60 and 94, it’s “Open to anyone who can get here.” Members come from all over and quite often provide lifts for each other but many come from Steeple Aston village itself.

The Valentine Club is extremely well organised by Richard and the committee and offers a new and varied programme every year. This years packed itinerary includes ten speakers or entertainers to enjoy at the village hall, ranging from a ventriloquism and magic show to singers and talks about leadership and other interesting subjects. There are six day trips to gardens, a winery and several river cruises. Holidays were started 3 years ago. This year the group can enjoy the delights of Eastbourne, the Isle of Wight or a mini-break  to Thursford Christmas Show. The year ends with a very popular Christmas dinner and entertainment – almost 100 people attended last December.

As one member commented, “It offers something different” to other clubs and another that they come for the “friendly atmosphere and because everything is organised.” A member shared that the club couldn’t do it without Richard and the committee, “He’s so committed and gives a great service to everyone – he’s the mainstay – [it’s] so easy you pay and turn up.”

In between the activities I was able to talk to the volunteers and the members to understand how important the club is to everyone. For many it’s a way to connect to others and avoid feeling alone, “I live on my own – so it’s really important [to come] to stop isolation,” “It’s important for socialising as I live in the middle of nowhere.” Richard commented that, “It’s a lifeline for people to make friends and its somewhere to meet others. It removes isolation and makes people feel that they belong.” Others agree, “Since I’ve been here I’ve got to know more people,” “It was OK when my husband was alive but its different now,” “It gives people a purpose. I live on my own and I look forward to meeting friends and meeting new people.”

The trips and holidays are a highlight for many and provide an opportunity for travelling in and outside of the county especially for those who are not able to travel independently. “I’ve been more places since coming to the club,” “A lot of people don’t drive so without the club and days out they wouldn’t go anywhere.” A daughter said, “We can take Mum on the trips without worrying about transport or company. She can stay with friends whilst we explore.”

It’s not just the attendees but the committee who enjoy the club. Alan said he volunteers, because he enjoys socialising, “It’s a joy to be here.” Both Richard and Alan agree that that there is a great spirit in the club, “We don’t have to ask for volunteers, people just come forward and help.”

A lot of planning goes into the fabulous Valentine Club, as with most community activities but it’s obvious that all the hard work is worth it as nicely summed up by a group of ladies who said they wouldn’t be without the club and look forward to it every month, “I love coming here – I love the people”, “Its one great big group of friends”, “I wish we could have it twice a month!”

Written By Lisa Stead, Project Development Manager

Community First Oxfordshire

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