Lunch club volunteers dish up food and friendship in Hexham

published on 30 May 2024

Stephen serves meals at Hexham Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has thanked its volunteers who dish up great food and friendship each week at a lunch club in Hexham. 

Working with local charity Gateway into the Community, the club, run from Hexham Salvation Army in Market Street every Tuesday, provides opportunities for people with additional needs to volunteer. 

This includes Stephen and Ryan who cook, set up tables, serve and support customers, as well as help out at regular jumble sales and with the Christmas Present Appeal. 

Stephen Castelow, 31, from Hexham, who has been volunteering for two years, said: “I’m one of the volunteers at the lunch club every Tuesday. You get a main course and a pudding, meals like sausage and mash, homemade pies, mince and tatties, and a hot drink all for £2.50. I help set up and serve the meals. 

“I certainly enjoy it, it helps to volunteer. I like to help the community and get to meet new people. It’s helped improve my confidence and shows that people with learning disabilities can help others in the community.” 

Stephen also helps out with the jumble sale

One customer, William, said: “I come because it’s a good environment. There’s a good variety of people who come. It’s amazing what they do. It’s about what people with disability can do, not what they can’t do.” 

Territorial Envoy Jason Wearmouth, who leads Hexham Salvation Army, said Hexham is an exciting pioneering church that is building on great community links with organisations like Gateway into the Community and the nearby Tynedale Centre to provide opportunities and activities for people with additional needs. 

As well as running the lunch club, they have a CAMEO (come and meet each other) group on a Tuesday afternoon and have just launched a community café on a Thursday morning. 

Jason said: “The lunch club is well established and has been a really positive experience for our volunteers and customers. It’s a very welcoming, calm peaceful environment that helps people thrive and use their skills to help others in the community. 

“I love coming alongside people and making them feel they have a place that is theirs and where they feel safe. 

It’s helped improve my confidence and shows that people with learning disabilities can help others in the community.”

“Our Tuesdays are established with the lunch club followed by CAMEO (come and meet each other) and we’re now in the process of building up our Thursday coffee morning. It’s an exciting time for Hexham, it feels upbeat and positive and that is down to the fantastic volunteers we have working with us. 

“Volunteers like Ryan and Stephen do so much. They help sort items for our jumble sale, they sorted presents at Christmas time to give to struggling families and built furniture as we upgrade the hall. As we mark Volunteers Week next week (June 3 to 9) I’d like to say thank you to them for all they do as without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver these activities.” 

Sarah Morrison, from Gateway into the Community, who supports Stephen and Ryan as they run the café, said: “The lads help make the meals, Ryan does the puddings – sponge and chocolate brownies are his speciality and Stephen serves customers. They set up the tables, chat to customers, it’s a really good experience for them and it helps their social skills, it’s a job and helps builds confidence in a safe space. They know Jason and feel supported by him.” 

William Hexham
Customer William

Sharyn Castelow, Stephen’s mum and Day Service manager at Gateway, who set up the lunch club, added: “I think these guys have got such a lot to offer, skills wise and communication wise. It also brings young people and old people together in such a positive way. Stephen has made a lot of good friends here over the years.” 

The lunch club is open from 12pm on Tuesdays while CAMEO starts at 1.30pm. The community café is open on Thursdays from 10.30am to 1.30pm. 

There are opportunities for people who want to volunteer at The Salvation Army. Find out more here

Victoria has a blonde bob and a big smile, she is standing outside her local Salvation Army with her former support worker, an older woman with short fair hair, she has her arm around Victoria's shoulder. They are both looking at the camera and smiling.

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