AS a farmer and dad of four, Kelvin Fletcher is used to feeding lots of hungry mouths.
So the ex-Emmerdale actor and his actress wife Liz Marsland knew the drill when they joined our Helping Hands at Christmas campaign by pitching in at a lunch club run by Royal Voluntary Service.
Kelvin, 38, said of the meeting: “It is an integral part of the diners’ week, and to spend time meeting new people has been fantastic.
“The volunteers get just as much from it as the people who come here to eat.”
For our Christmas campaign, we are asking YOU to support Royal Voluntary Service’s life-changing work with time and/or money — however little of each you can spare at this tough time.
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Kelvin, farmer Andy Sugden on ITV’s Emmerdale from 1996 to 2016, also farms in real life in Cheshire and in 2019 won Strictly Come Dancing with pro Oti Mabuse.
He was a huge hit at the club, not least because he and former Cold Feet actress Liz showed up with a Cointreau pie.
The weekly club, in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, which has been run since 1964 from the Methodist Church, is led by coordinator Anne Bale, 67, with her team Celia Reed, 64, Kari Charles, 63, and Julie Dickson, 63.
They are supported by volunteer drivers Tim Kynaston, 53, and Jenny Hulme, 75, who provide lifts for diners with mobility issues.
They cater for up to 20 regulars, ranging in age from mid-seventies to 96. Many live alone.
Liz said: “At times like we are going through we need to come together. If you can give a bit of time, it can make a massive difference to an elderly person.
“The more you can help, the better.”
Kelvin added: “The gratification you get from knowing you’ve helped out and raised someone’s spirits is great.”
Now, more than ever, clubs like this are a lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable as they struggle to heat their homes and afford essentials including food.
For diner Jean Astle, 87, the lunch group became a vital part of her life after her husband had to go into a care home.
She said: “It was nice to know I had a routine. I get out of the house and have a bit of company. I’ve made nice friends.”
During Kelvin and Liz’s visit, ex-volunteer Carolyn Poole came in to play piano so everyone could sing Christmas carols.
Retired solicitor Julie Dickson, 63, explained why she helps at the club.
She said: “My mother suffered from loneliness, so being here means I can stop others feeling that way.
“Some of our team only give up a few hours once a month. It’s really doable.”
The club used to run on Thursdays as well as the usual Tuesday but lately has lacked helpers to do that.
Kelvin added about volunteering: “You do get something out of it yourself as well. It’s a great feeling and only a couple of hours.”
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