Tea, biscuits and wellbeing

Places of Welcome are spaces for people to belong, connect and contribute. They can be a lifeline for people struggling with loneliness, ill health, anxiety or depression.

“It’s a regular safe place to come for a chat and friendship. People don’t feel that they are judged or looked down on. They value that they are treated with respect and listened to,” says Revd Tom Worsley, priest at Christ Church Felling, in Gateshead.

St Gabriels Walsall Po W cup

Christ Church Felling had previously held a coffee morning, but its priest, Revd Tom Worsley, knew it could achieve more. After a chat with a Places of Welcome co-ordinator, he decided to revamp the church’s offering by relaunching as a Place of Welcome.

It now opens its doors regularly as a warm, friendly community space, with essential services for those in need.

“We offer weekly crafts and activities, and food parcels to those requiring assistance," says Tom.

“People don’t feel ashamed about taking food parcels, as some did queuing at a food bank. A number of the people have commented that not attending a food bank, but a Place of Welcome, which helps by giving food, is making a difference to their confidence.

“One man was very quiet and reluctant to talk when he first attended - now he is quite happy to talk to different people - he is now in his 50s and has suffered from the age of 18 with anxiety and depression. He tells people he credits his visits to us as being a great help, as the volunteers are willing to listen and that helps him tremendously. He still has anxiety issues but has improved so much.”

During the summer holidays the Place of Welcome provided picnic lunches for the children of their regular families, thanks to a grant from the diocesan charity, Communities Together Durham and a gift from a local donor. The Place of Welcome provided between 25 and 28 lunches every week for six weeks, as well as crafts and activities.

Tom adds: “On the last Wednesday of the school holidays, in addition to the picnic lunches, games and activities, we provided a buffet lunch for everyone, a gift bag for each child, and arranged for an ice cream van to call, everyone getting a free ice cream cornet. We had 50 – 60 visitors that day.”