Sunday was the 3rd Community Roast to be held at the Swanwick Memorial hall in Old Whittington, Chesterfield.
It’s advertised as ‘full roast dinner, entertainment and a great atmosphere guaranteed’ and it delivers that in abundance.
Preparation starts on the Friday, with people supported for a Lifelong Learning provision at Swanwick helping with collecting the food, getting the hall clean and tables ready.
At 7am on Sunday morning, 4 of the Swanwick staff team who volunteer their time, switch ovens on and make a start on getting the Chicken seasoned and sacks of potatoes peeled and sliced. The Service Manager Michelle, hands over the reins to Support worker Dave who confidently takes on the role of Head Chef and together with Clare, his trusted Sous Chef, talk through the plans of the day. Throughout the morning, there is a steady stream of volunteers who happily roll up their sleeves to get stuck in either with what they have been tasked with or bringing to life an idea they have had.
Excitement fills the room right from the start; it’s no surprise that the number of volunteers are increasing; there are local people who have seen the active social media posts or heard about the event through the local school, church and social prescribing team. Family members of the staff can be seen raking the grounds outside, washing endless amounts of pots and getting the children’s craft competition ready.
On Sunday, David who is supported at Swanwick though the week, was celebrated and thanked for his contribution. David works incredibly hard as a volunteer and has not missed one yet- he also donates some fantastic cakes made by his Shared Life Carer. He was a great role model and talked enthusiastically to Simon, who had travelled up from Leicester with his Support Work Scott to lend a hand with setting the tables and decorating the hall with balloons.
At 11:45am, the doors open to a queue of people eager to get in and buy a raffle ticket. Some people had heard about us for the first time, others have been to previous Community Roasts or the Memory Café which is held on the last Friday of each month. For those people nervously walking into the hall, they are warmly welcomed by Jayne at the door who along with other volunteers, settle people in with a cuppa and introduction to someone on their chosen table. It was fantastic to see familiar faces both of people who have visited us before or are supported by MacIntyre and had either come alone or invited a family member along with them. Even more warming, was seeing people who have built friendships through Swanwick, coming together to catch up on what they had been doing since the last time they saw each other.
Even the hiccup of the microwave deciding to stop working mid service didn’t hinder the smooth running or the atmosphere of the day; instead it led to more people wanting to lend a hand….only after everyone was suitably fed, could we sit back and laugh at the chaos it caused.
After 69 meals were served it was time for us volunteers to make sure there was an endless supply of tea, coffee and cake whilst everyone enjoyed the entertainment of a Blues Brother tribute artist L-Wood; the room was electric and soon people were singing and dancing along.
To finish off the day, the much loved raffle took place. Due to the generous prize donations, there were many winners in the room and those that didn’t win, left optimistic that they would win next month!
On the tables were jars with paper and pens, offering people the opportunity to feedback and write any suggestions. Everyone was eager to read these at the end of the day as well as share their stories of the day.
Here are a few of the comments from our amazing guests;
''A lovely lunch with a lovely, friendly group of people. David was a great host. A nice community get together''
''Very enjoyable lunch time, food, entertainment and staff''
''Friendly atmosphere, reasonable price, value for money. Staff are kind and welcoming, keep up the good work''
''I hugely recommend to come here, staff and food are brilliant and for the money it’s extremely good value and very good. Give all credit to the staff''
''Worth every penny, enjoyed ourselves, staff very polite and pleasant. Thank you''
''Enjoyable afternoon, very entertaining, good music and food. Our second visit and will visit again''
''Really enjoyed my chicken dinner and the cakes were lovely. The service was first class, thanks to all''
"Brilliant lunch, very friendly staff complimented by some entertainment. Great to include disabled people. As an older resident of Old Whittington recently returned to Chesterfield I found it enjoyable and value for money"
Margaret is 90 years old and lives locally. She arrived upset as her taxi had arrived late; she soon relaxed once she knew there was a cuppa and meal. Once settled, she handed over a bag of prizes for the raffle which were gratefully received. Margaret told me that it was ‘the least she could do for all the wonderful people’
Mr Green, a local man who lives alone after the loss of his wife, is a frequent visitor. He told Sue, one of the volunteers, that the Community Roast is the highlight of the month; he looks forward to a tasty hot meal, the entertainment, company and meeting new people. After he spoke about the difference it was making to him and his feeling of loneliness, Sue offered him a hug…he accepted and said ‘I haven’t had a hug for years.’
So many people who took the brave step to attend their first Community Roast have the dates firmly written on their calendars, why….maybe it’s their only hot meal of the week, maybe it’s because it makes a change from their own four walls, maybe it’s because they see the smile on their wife’s face when she hears the music start but, whatever the reason, connections, laughter, conversation was shared and enjoyed by many. People left saying goodbye and thank you, but as a volunteer that day, I gave thanks too as in whatever way people were involved, they made a difference to someone’s day. Dave said that he will continue to volunteer his cooking his skills as the day gives him such a buzz….as the day came to an end, plans started for next month.