Lunch club heroes are recognised by the Queen

Lunch club heroes Betty and Margaret have been celebrating after being recognised by the Queen.

Betty Lewis, 90, and Margaret Harmer, 80, have been awarded the British Empire Medal for running the Church Stretton Lunch Club.

They have been recognised on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for their work in the community.

Each year, the Queen’s Birthday Honours List recognises the achievements and services of extraordinary people.

The national press celebrates the celebrity additions to the list, but this year Marcus Rashford, Mary Berry and the rest are joined by two esteemed Church Stretton residents who have made a big contribution to their community for 30 years – and counting.

Back in 1990, Margaret Harmer and Betty Lewis founded the lunch club, a place for people to meet, chat and enjoy a delicious hot meal.

Margaret said: "I have always loved elderly people, even when I was younger. I worked at the Mayfair Nursing Home in Church Stretton and Betty worked at the Church Stretton Doctors Surgery.

"Our local doctor said to us both why don't you start up a lunch club and so we did, as Betty was retiring and the Mayfair was closing. We have met some lovely people.

"As the Mayfair, where we held it originally, was closing we ended up moving to our current site and have been there ever since. We both like doing old fashioned cooking, proper homemade cakes and potatoes, gravy and meat."

During more normal times, the lunch club is held in the community room at Connexus Ley Gardens Independent Living Scheme for up to 40 residents.

Margaret and Betty are both now proud recipients of the British Empire Medal (BEM), awarded by Her Majesty the Queen for ‘hands-on’ service to the local community.

Margaret said: “Well, I wasn’t expecting that phone call! I couldn’t have done it without all my helpers – who have been fantastic – and Ley Gardens for giving us the use of this lovely room.

"It was a nice surprise. It's just wonderful. I just thought, why me? We have just done something we love.

"We can't wait to get in and see everyone again. It's just really rewarding. It's just grown and grown since we started. Betty makes the most wonderful pastries, everyone loves her tarts and pies. I just love elderly people, it's been lovely what we have done."

Although currently suspended by coronavirus restrictions, the lunch club was first set-up not just to feed local residents, but also to combat loneliness and social isolation by encouraging new friendships.

Now rightfully recognised for their years of dedicated volunteering, Betty and Margaret said they can’t wait to bring everybody together again.

Michelle Hodnett, Independent Living Coordinator, added: “It’s a place for people to come, meet their friends and reduce social isolation. Residents can come and have a hot meal, have some fun and link in with the wider community.

"It is a fantastic group - they have run it as volunteers all this time. It's not only for the sheltered housing scheme tenants, but quite a few people from the local area also attend.

"They all work so hard. I am so pleased they are being recognised as they come into their thirtieth year of running the club."

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