Volunteers' Week: A volunteer's experience of Shared Tables, More than a Mealtime


To celebrate Volunteers' Week we want to share positive stories from volunteers that work with our delivery partners to improve the lives of older people across Leeds.

Shared Tables brings single people together to eat as a group at a local restaurant. It is run by Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours’ Scheme CIO, our delivery partner for More than a Mealtime, and part of the citywide Time to Shine project. 

A volunteer host coordinates the outing, and also helps to break the ice since people often don’t know each other beforehand. One of the volunteer hosts was kind enough to tell us about their experience as a volunteer:

"I arrived early to check where we should sit and what was on offer on the menu. I introduced people as they arrived and invited everyone to get themselves a drink. I led the way ordering a soda water, which is always free.

Others got their drinks and we studied the menu, deciding what to order and pay for our food and then we sat down and began to chat amongst themselves. Conversation flowed freely on a range of topics until the food was brought to our table.

Quiet descended for a while, as we tackled our various plates, ranging from burgers and chips to scampi and chips, cottage pie to a large and varied shared platter. People agreed that the chips were very good and comments about the meal were positive.

As we relaxed and people felt comfortable we began to share more intimate details. We chatted about films. We thought it might be a good idea to go to see the film together and decided to exchange phone numbers in order to arrange when to go.

After more conversation one guest shared how she's not coping very well after the loss of her husband and people promised to telephone her to remind her that she's not alone. 

Some of us talked about going on holiday and one guest mentioned a coach company which she recommends for mystery lunches as well as coach holidays. All good ideas for people on their own.

Some of the party ordered dessert and found it rather larger than expected but enjoyable all the same. It was a very pleasant time, spent in the company of like-minded people."

If you would like to find out more or get involved with Shared Tables please contact Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours’ Scheme CIO on 0113 260 6565.

Time to Shine is managed by Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) and funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst people over 50.

Time to Shine selects partners across Leeds to deliver unique and creative projects that engage socially isolated people. Within the programme is robust external local and national evaluation to test and learn from the approaches and inform future work.

Leeds is one of 14 Ageing Better areas, selected from an original 100 in England. LOPF secured £6 million from Big Lottery Fund to reach more than 15,000 older people in the city by 2021.

For more information about Time to Shine please visit: timetoshineleeds.org

Volunteers' Week 2016 runs from 1-12 June. The annual campaign, established in 1984, celebrates the difference volunteers make to our communities. Charities across the UK are holding events to thank their volunteers and celebrate the power of volunteering to bring communities together.

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