Cromer cafe pilot scheme to support the lonely

The Rev Sharon Willimott. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Rev Sharon Willimott. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Hearty meals are being served up in a church hall in a bid to tackle the increasing problem of loneliness and rural isolation.

Volunteers at Cromer Methodist Church Hall, on West Street, will be dishing up homemade food, puddings, warm drinks and conversation every Monday lunchtime for anyone suffering from loneliness.

It is hoped the Community Café pilot venture, supported by Cromer churches and Cromer and District Foodbank, could spread to Holt and potentially other north Norfolk towns.

The Rev Sharon Willimott, Methodist minister for the north Norfolk circuit who is behind the project, said: 'Being socially excluded affects people's idea of self-worth. They feel they don't give anything to the community. There must be a number of people that have depression because they are isolated.

'The café is about building some sort of community cohesion. We need to know where the people are so we can help them.'

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She added: 'Isolation has always been around but I think it is worsening as people's financial situations get worse. They do not have the money to socialise.'

Other reasons behind loneliness were the cost of rural transport and families living further apart in different areas of the country.

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'Loneliness is not just exclusive to older people. Younger people on benefits are also struggling. Most people on benefits live hand to mouth and an offer of a free cup of coffee is much appreciated. Mums with children can also feel quite isolated. The community café is a gift to anybody,' Mrs Willimott added.

But she believed a 'sea change in attitudes' was needed to provide services to north Norfolk's ageing population.

Problems connected to loneliness were also exacerbated in winter because of the colder weather and darker nights, which meant fewer people travelled to groups or communities.

Mrs Willimott, a trustee of the Cromer and District Foodbank which runs a drop-in café at the West Street church hall every Thursday, said many people who attended that were lonely improved through social interaction.

The new Community Café will use funds from the former monthly lunch club, which finished last year because its organisers could not carry it on.

It is hoped the new lunchtime sessions will become self-funding as people can give donations for the dinners, if they want to.

Mrs Willimott said it was harder for some lunch clubs to continue because there were a lot of restrictions on funding for these types of groups.

Food will be cooked by Carolyn Burn, 42, from Neil Avenue in Holt, who is part of the missionary Holt faith community.

She said: 'It is a basic human requirement to enjoy food. The café is about people coming together from all walks of life. It is for anybody.'

The group can provide transport to and from the café which runs from 11.30am-1.30pm. Food is served from 12noon-1pm.

For details email

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