Salford veterans were left devastated after their annual Christmas dinner plans were changed due to local COVID restrictions.

The Salford Veterans Breakfast Club are fundraising to make Christmas hampers for isolating veterans and for those who cannot attend the smaller event.

Claire Marie Street, a volunteer cook for the club and main organizer of the hampers explained how she felt about this: “It’s heart breaking!  Last year we had the Oldham Scottish pipe band who actually came down and did a good half and hour before the meal and the looks on some of the veterans faces was absolutely magic. There were tears of joy on some of them; it pulled on my heart strings and I know I did a good job because they all walked away knowing they’d had a good day.

Claire Marie Street. Image caption: Olivia Mukerjea

“More than anything else they look forward to it because they get to see each other. Some only come once or twice a year so it’s good to see them out as well and it’s a shame we aren’t going to get that this year.”

Local restrictions mean they cannot meet in groups of more than 6 people and have to stay 2 meters apart.

Director of the club, Owen Hammond stated: “One of the problems we had was we started up again when we were allowed to but they didn’t like the restrictions, you can’t mix when you’ve got to be 6 feet apart with masks on and they refuse to come under those circumstances and I understand that. It was completely defeating the objective of the morning.”

They are aiming to make 25 hampers filled with Holland Pies and tinned food funded by public donations.

Claire said: “Holland’s Pies have donated all the pies for the hampers. There are different sites that we can approach that help us in that sense, but apart from that I did put a fundraiser page on Facebook and of the £160, we’ve been out to get the tinned stuff. It’s not made a massive dent because we know we’ve got 25 hampers. We’ll get there cause we know people that have said they will help out.

Two veterans talking at the club. Image credit: Olivia Mukerjea

“We just want to make sure they’ve got something there on Christmas so at least they haven’t got the worry of not being able to go out shopping or trying to put that stress onto someone else to bring it in.”

The breakfast club was not able to meet for a few months due to the nationwide lockdown and was greatly missed by their members.

Many of the veterans found it very lonely because this club was their main way of meeting people.

One veteran, Ken Johnstone said: “I’ve missed it because you see all your mates and have a good chat. I lost our wife three years ago and it’s been hard. I enjoyed coming and seeing everyone. The girls are good cooks, you get a nice big breakfast, all the trimmings.”

Owen speaking with fellow veteran, Jack. Image credit: Olivia Mukerjea

Owen Hammond added: “The main problem is loneliness, Jack there doesn’t see another person all week from one Saturday to another, he’s very sad. Most of them have lost their wives from one reason or another, bereavement or separation. I think we’ve done a lot of good in Salford and could do a lot more.”

Over lockdown, some of the volunteers did regular phone calls to the members and took food round to their homes as a way of keeping in contact with them.

“It’s the only way we get to find out about their issues, they won’t go tell people if they are in trouble. You have to find out by having a cup of coffee; they open up and you try help them. That’s what we are here for,” Owen said.

The club is very special to its members as they can talk to like minded people and exchange stories.

Alf Doyle, a veteran spoke about why he enjoys coming to the club: “I like the banter, forces lads compared with civilian lads, it’s different. You take the micky out of each other and just get on with it. I really miss it.”

“Joining the club was one of the best things that I have ever done,” fellow veteran, Derrick Corfield added.

Instead of the big Christmas dinner this year, the club is trying to organize a smaller meal at a local pub, the Barton Arms for a small group of members to attend.

If you would like to donate to the fundraiser, follow this link.



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