Wednesday saw me slide (literally) as the roads were so icy over to STEP in Leeds, a charity committed to helping the elderly.
As the snow fall was IMMENSE the turnout wasn’t representative of the usual numbers of folks drawn to the comfort of this community style centre but it was lovely to meet those, there.
A haven for the over 60’s in the LS16 area, STEP is open Monday – Thursday, 10am-4pm for breakfast, coffee, social activities and fitness classes and they also arrange day trips too.
STEP is the ideal place for those who might feel lonely and in need of a cuppa in great company and it’s somewhere bursting with POSITIVE ENERGY and uplifting vibes.
The minute I arrived saw me being greeted by the tremendously warm and charismatic manager, Wendy who gave me a tour while setting up pictures and quick interviews with patrons who’d braved the snow and were warming up with breakfast and warm coffee.
Wendy explained that once elderly members within the community are referred to STEP, together with her colleague Janice, home visits are made so they can check the wellbeing and safety of the person (referring for support or helping them claim benefits some might not have even known they were able to) before encouraging visits to the centre for food, company, exercise sessions, monthly quizzes and more.
Wendy and Julia offer the elderly a lifeline in Leeds. Friendly faces, somewhere that is welcome to all that will help them reconnect with others and feel a sense of belonging.
What stood out most to me was just how happy everyone there was from the support workers to the members visiting.
The food looked delicious- ‘bacon butties are everyone’s favourite’ said chirpy chef Diane who stocks favourite food for members ‘Jean loves artic roll’ and prices of meals are a snip at jacket potatoes with a filling at just £1.50.
It was lovely to chat to a cross section of members too, one chap, Graham said he discovered the place when bringing his mother and now enjoys popping in for a cup of tea and a chance to read his paper, when he can.
He too commented on how positive the place is. A sun trap, it fills with glorious light and offer space where members can watch TV, shop for donated items, join in Tai Chi or simply enjoy their breakfast, lunch or dinner in the company of like-minded mates.
STEP is a vital space for so many.
When Wendy mentioned how so many felt lonely pre-Step and now with so many regulars who feel it’s been informative to them, I couldn’t help but relate to a period of loneliness in my own life.
….When I had my first son, Oliver, I suffered from the effects of a traumatic birth for a year- at 27, I was the first from my friends and colleagues to have a baby too which meant I felt hugely lonely, particularly at the start.
Those feelings of isolation and a real lack of structure and purpose was stifling.
I understand in my own, small way how elderly patrons might feel having lost their identity somewhat, their routine and structure and devastatingly for some, loved ones.
Places like STEP are so vital in ensuring people suffering in this way do not feel isolated and alone.
That they belong.
It was an honour and privilege to visit STEP.
Please do consider signing up for Sport Relief’s games with events happening across the UK, you and your family can raise money and have a super day out on March 20th. The proceeds raised are going to help STEP and many other projects supporting the poorest communities in the UK and all over the world.
I will be doing a sponsored 3 mile walk with my family and would love you to sponsor us HERE.