Veterans gather to celebrate Christmas at SSAFA's Veterans' Club
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This week the SSAFA Southend Veterans club met for the last time this year, to celebrate Christmas and make merry together over a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Held at Westcliff Royal British Legion, the day started for club founder Michelle and and her team of five volunteers at 7.30am to 'deck the halls' and begin cooking the three-course feast which included festive starters, a full turkey dinner and Christmas pudding or Eton Mess to finish. The table was then laid for nearly 60 guests, with a well thought out table plan with all their choices for the meal to come - no mean feat from the team in charge!
The local veterans and club members - including two currently serving reservists - began arriving at midday for tea and coffee, chatting and laughing for an hour before the meal was served. It is clear to see that over the past ten months of the club running, the group have become very close and really enjoy one another's company.
As the volunteers served out the food the hall was filled with genuine, warm laughter, chatting, banter and drinking with a real celebratory atmosphere on every table, with a couple of the old boys swigging from the rum in their pockets! Following the delicious lunch, Michelle and her volunteers got dressed up in festive costumes and gave out presents to everybody; whether beers, clothing, or food hampers, each present was well thought out and personal to the individual.
There were then some moving speeches given, the first by Paul Bennett, an army Veteran, who gave a lovely speech to Chell and presented gifts on behalf of everyone, and then from Norman, whose heartfelt thanks to Michelle was echoed around the room. It is clear all the veterans are so thankful for Michelle and her wonderful team and really appreciate all that she does for them all. As a result the atmosphere at every Veterans Club, but this one in particular, was so positive and special to be a part of. The work of individuals like Michelle, who work tirelessly to improve the lives of Veterans in their local area is inspirational, and the impact she has made on those who attend the club is evident. A very Merry Christmas to all our volunteers in Southend on Sea and to all the members of the Veterans club.
More about the Southend Veterans Club
The weekly club was set up in Southend by SSAFA, to provide local military veterans with a place to relax and socialise, and is the brainchild of Michele Everett, divisional secretary of SSAFA Southend. The Armed Forces veterans, along with widows and widowers of veterans, share stories, have a sing-a-long and enjoy some well-deserved home-made meals with endless mugs of tea.
Funded purely by vital, public donations, the club takes place at the Royal Naval Association on East Street in Southend-On-Sea, every Thursday afternoon from 12:00hrs – 16:30hrs. It is open to Armed Forces veterans of all ages, the oldest current club member being 91 years old.
Every Thursday, a homemade two-course lunch is provided at 1pm, prepared by Michele Everett and the other SSAFA volunteers. After lunch, veterans are able to chat, play cards, games, darts and pool or get the guitar out, which usually ends in a group sing-along of old songs from their time in service.
SAFA Southend Veterans’ Club founder Michele Everett says, “At SSAFA Southend, we have seen an increase in need from local veterans. We are seeing just how many Armed Forces veterans there are in our area who have served our country and deserve to be supported in whichever way they may need.
SSAFA promises lifelong support to our veterans and their families and wants to fulfil this promise locally. By creating the club, we have provided a regular opportunity for our veterans to shoot the breeze, share experiences, play some music and create and nurture friendships that can last a lifetime. It offers them something to look forward to every week.”
SSAFA Southend works locally with social workers to identify lonely or vulnerable veterans and the charity’s volunteers aim to help those in any way they can by doing home visits and assessing their needs.
To become a club member please contact use the below form to register your interest.
To donate vital funds, games, musical equipment or your time to the SSAFA Southend Veterans’ Club and help keep it running and keep veterans smiling, please contact Michele using the below form.