Leominster Meeting Centre Bring Your Own Lunch – reflecting on the first four years

In the first of a new series of ‘Bring Your Own Lunch’ webinars, and on the eve of their fourth birthday, Leominster Meeting Centre reflected on their first four years of operation.

Kicking things off, Shirley Evans [link] (a Trustee and Treasurer of Leominster Meeting Centre) gave a bit of background as to how Leominster Meeting Centre started. As part of the MeetingDem project which ran from 2014 to 2017, Droitwich Spa and Leominster were identified as potential venues for the first two Meeting Centres in the UK. The Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre opened in September 2015 while Leominster started operating on 1st February 2016.

One of the first steps for Leominster Meeting Centre was to set up a Planning Group, and the following image shows just how many different organisations and individuals were involved at this stage.

Cheryl Poole (a Trustee with a focus on safeguarding) then took us through the early stages of Leominster Meeting Centre, including the unsettling time when the initial funding from Herefordshire Council came to an end. Interim funding from the Alzheimer’s Society gave Leominster Meeting Centre the time to set themselves up as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, and it was this charity that took over the governance and running of the Meeting Centre in September 2017. At this point, Leominster Meeting Centre was faced with three key challenges…

Challenge 1 – Who was going to manage the Meeting Centre?

The answer was Joy Valentini, as owner of Ab Fab Domiciliary Care Agency, who became Manager of Leominster Meeting Centre. Joy herself told us how she initially became involved with the Meeting Centre through her husband who was one of the Leominster Meeting Centre members. We also heard about some of the connections that Joy has made locally to raise awareness of the Meeting Centre. It’s worth noting that in 2019 Joy was runner up in Herefordshire Health and Social Care Dementia Team Award.

Challenge 2 – How could the Meeting Centre increase their numbers?

Cheryl – who incidentally was winner of the Herefordshire Health and Social Care Good Nurse Award for 2019 – was able to promote Leominster Meeting Centre within the community and within her professional role, for example helping Memory Services to be aware that it was an available option for referral within their local community. Cheryl’s efforts, combined with others, has resulted in an increase in members at Leominster Meeting Centre.

Challenge 3 – How can the Meeting Centre be funded?

As Shirley explained, funding has always been – and will always be – a challenge, but different sources have helped to keep Leominster Meeting Centre going over the past four years. As their membership has increased over time, funding generated from the membership fees has also increased (unsurprisingly), and more recently funding from the National Lottery Community Fund has helped to provide some stability for the Meeting Centre.

So where is Leominster Meeting Centre now?

Leominster Meeting Centre has expanded over time and currently supports around 30 pairs of paying members. It has also become embedded in the local community through a variety of activities. Leominster Meeting Centre is part of the UK Meeting Centre Support Programme [link], acting as a demonstrator site which can share practice with interested parties and emerging Meeting Centres, and engaging with data collection to add to the existing evidence base around Meeting Centres.

Sustainability of Leominster Meeting Centre

As can be seen in the image below, Leominster Meeting Centre is undertaking a number of different activities to promote sustainability and ensure that it continues to support people affected by dementia.

Following the presentation element of the webinar, time was available for attendees to ask questions. There was a good level of interest around sharing experiences, membership fees, types of sessions delivered at the Meeting Centre, intergenerational activities, and staffing and volunteers.

Overall, the webinar provided a great insight into Leominster Meeting Centre, and we’d like to thank Shirley, Cheryl and Joy for taking part as we know these sorts of things can be quite nerve-wracking.

So happy birthday Leominster Meeting Centre, here’s to many more years of the wonderful work that you do.

If you would like to get in touch with or find out more about Leominster Meeting Centre their contact details are:

The next webinar will take place Friday 28th February, with Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre [link] presenting and you can find out how to access it on the Association for Dementia Studies website [link to MCSP page where BYOL are advertised]

 

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